Barangay captains and council members of Oslob town’s 21 barangays underwent a briefing on ecotourism and sustainable tourism last Sept. 18 as part of the Cebu Provincial Government’s “Serbisyo Karaban” in the town.
It was the fourth caravan made by the Capitol after Bantayan island, Badian town, and Camotes island.
Prior to the start of the briefing, Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III and Vice Governor Agnes Magpale requested the barangay officials to take care of their tourism sites while they are still there.
“Ang suporta sa katawhan importante kaayo….kamong mga stakeholders ilabi na sa mga lugar asa ang mga turista moadto…. The whale shark would not be there forever,” he said, referring to the whale shark watching that has made the town known the world over.
“Responsibilidad nato nga tudloan ug tambagan ang mga pamilya,” he told the barangay officials on the need for them to guide their constituents.
The vice governor, on the other hand, echoed the same message, saying the people should strive to minimize the damage or the ill effects of the influx of tourists in the town.
“Ampingan nato samtang ang grasya naa pa,” she said.
Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer Joselito “Boboi” Costas, on the other hand, explained that with tourism being one of the biggest industries in the world, the town must engage in tourism that also helps the sites recover and therefore sustainable.
“Turismo nga imbis makaguba makapahiuli sa kinaiyahan, turismo nga matunhayon,” he said, explaining that ecotourism means tourism where natural or cultural attractions of a particular place are the ones utilized as capital to attract visitors.
As defined, ecotourism is “responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the well-being of the people”, where there is low impact on the site but visitors experience high value service.
To do this, Costas said, the community should be tapped and involved in the management of ecotourism sites, saying that while town and barangay officials come and go, the community is always there.
“If community-managed, it will continue whoever the officials are,” Costas said.
In particular, he told the officials that they must ensure that each site has an identified carrying capacity, or the number of tourists of visitors allowed to experience the site each day.
He also told them the “acid test” or yardstick in determining ecotourism is conservation, the involvement of the community in managing the site, culture, and presence of commerce.
Also, in the same briefing, the barangay officials were informed about the findings of the environmental compliance and monitoring of restaurants and resorts in two Oslob barangays where both local and foreign tourists.
The team discovered that there were several establishments that just through their waste directly to the sea, were unhygienic in their food preparation and equipment storage, and were lacking in terms of business and sanitary permits.
Hog raising near the sea, lack of emergency responders and there are they lack experience in basic life support and first aid, lack of emergency equipment, traffic, parking space, proper drainage, among others were also raised by the barangay officials during the briefing.
The state of disrepair and neglect of the Estaca fortress in Barangay Daanglungsod was also discussed, including the encroachment and damage caused by residents to the crumbling walls and watchtowers. The fortress, spanning two hectares, is bigger than Fort San Pedro in Cebu City and could very well form part of the town’s heritage tour.
The barangay officials resolved to raise the matter with the Liga ng mga Barangay and back the town’s tourism officer in terms of rehabilitating and preserving this national heritage.
The Provincial Tourism Office also presented its findings on the initial inspection of potential ecotourism sites in Barangays Daanlungsod, Tan-awan, Bangcogon, Cansaloay, Ucban, Tumalog, Kanangkaan, and Poblacion.