Case Study of Palaui
BRANDING AN ISLAND: THE PALAUI STORY by Chen Reyes-Mencias 09272795807 http://www. bluewaterconsultancy. info http://www. palaui. info Twenty years ago I set foot on an island that was nothing but fantastic. It is at the tip of Luzon 642 kms.
north of Manila. At that time it was a logistical nightmare to go there and so my last thought before I headed back home was that it may be the first and last time for me to see it. The island is called Palaui and is located in Sta. Ana, Cagayan.
In 2005 I was hired by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority to manage a community-based sustainable tourism project on the same island that I thought I would never be able to visit again due to its inaccessibility.
It came as a surprise to me though that not only was the road leading to Sta. Ana excellent, there were already hotels and resorts in the area. Palaui Island is a protected area that was declared in Aug. 16, 1994 by virtue of Proc. No.
447 under the category of protected landscape and seascape. In Feb. 4, 1995 it became part of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport. It has a total land area of about 3,000 ha. And about 2,000 ha water area. The forest resource of the island is considered unique since five forest types can be found in the area namely: beach forest, molave forest, mangrove forest, dipterocarp forest, and mossy forest.
The three trails on the island – Lagunzad, Leonardo and Siwangag – provide lifeenhancing and educational experiences. Beach at Cape Engano identified by CNN as third of ten best beaches in the Philippines.
The coastal and marine resource of the island is endowed with rich species of soft and hard corals and seagrasses which serves as spawning and nursery ground of various fish and marine species. The Island also offers vast frontiers of untapped natural resource, scenic tourist spots, as well as beautiful beaches. One side of the Island also serves as harbor and refuge for sea vessels during typhoons and other disastrous maritime events. The topography of the island is generally sloping with relatively low hills and dominated with moderate slopes.
The forest blocks can be easily traversed at the lower portion of the ridges running from southeast to northeast direction. The western direction of the Island is steep with rugged terrain with slopes greater than 18%. The Island is elevated from 5 to 269 meters above sea level. The project was launched in March 2006 and several partners were tapped to be able to determine what the island has to offer in terms of natural and cultural heritage. The people’s organization on the island that was organized by the DENR during the implementation of the Coastal Environment Program in 1994 was re-organized.
It is called Palaui Environmental Protectors Association or PEPA.
MILESTONES OF THE PROJECT: 1. Physical socio-economic profiling by the UP Dept. Of Geography; 2. Biodiversity assessment by Conservation International and DENR; 3. Biodiversity assessment by Dr. Dan Lagunzad, Leonard Co and Dr.
Perry Ong UP Institute of Biology; 4. Organized the boat operators (PASAMOBA) into a cooperative. 5. Seagrass assessment by Dr. Mike Fortes of UP Marine Science Institute – new record for the Philippines Halophila gaudichaudii; 8 of 17 species described in the Philippines are found in PIPLS; 39 species of seawweeds . Installation of marker on the Spanish lighthouse by the National Historical Institute; 7.
Installation of marker at the lighthouse by the National Museum declaring PIPLS as a National Cultural Property; 8. Training of island guides by Blue Water Consultancy; 9. Repair of Bayanihan Hall with funding from Seacology, a California-based NGO; 10. Installation of solar panels for lighting in the Bayanihan Hall 11. Implementation of the Reeforestation project, a reef rehabilitation project in the marine protected area in Punta Verde; 12.
Training of women in catering by Process Luzon; 3. Repair of the Baratubut foot bridge. 14. Construction of water impoundment for the installation of pico-hydro generator donated by the Renewable Energy Association of the Philippines (REAP); 15. Island guide becomes recipient of grant from the GREET program of DOT and support came in the form of uniforms, first aid kits and other materials; 16. Training of island guides on first aid and basic life support under the Phil National Red Cross; 17.
Identification of 280 trees along Leonardo’s Trail by Ulysses Ferreras; 18. Labeling of trees along Leonardo’s Trail; 9. Donation of books and school materials to the elementary school and day care center; 20. Adoption of the General Management Plan for the island; 21. Implementation of the user fee collection system; 22. Training of wild honey collection and processing by Cagayan State University and Dept.
of Trade and Industry; 23. Approval of the PAMB on the naming of the eco-historical trails after Dr. Dan Lagunzad and Leonard Co. 24. Training of Reef Rangers or snorkeling guides by the DOT-Philippine Commission on Sports SCUBA Diving (PCSSD).
25. Granting of P667,000. 0 grant to PEPA for ecotourism enterprises under the Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project Component C (Ecotourism Enterprise Development) 26. Partnership with Primer group of Company through its advocacy arm Center for Outdoor Recreation and Expedition (CORE) for the Adopt-A-Protected Area program that will be implemented by the DENR Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau. REPLICABLE FRAMEWORK The framework and tools for Palaui is now being used in the implementation of the ICRMP Component C (Ecotourism Enterprise Development) that covers 7 provinces namely Cagayan, Zambales, Romblon, Masbate, Cebu, Siquijor and Davao Oriental.
The framework emphasizes the need to have a unique and well preserved base product which may be a forest, river with mangroves or coral reef preferably a declared marine protected area. The base product is an ecosystem from where the tourism product will be anchored to. The first step in the planning process was to identify what the island has and the current status of poverty of the community in Punta Verde. These resources form the base product or attraction. The socio-economic profiling was conducted in partnership with the University of the Philippines Geography Department.
Conservation International and University of the Philippines Institute of Biology (UP-IB) helped identify the flora and fauna along the existing trails of the island, while the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) identified the corals and fishes in the marine sanctuary and the coral reefs along the western side. Seagrass expert Dr. Mike Fortes of UP-MSI also brought his team to identify the seagrass species which led them to a “first record” for Halophila gaudichaudii.
Ulysses Ferreras, a free-lance botanist and the protege of Leonard Co also volunteered to identify the trees alog Leonardo’s Trail for tagging purposes. Leonardo’s trail marker installed to Give honor to late Leonardo Co.
The centuries-old Spanish Lighthouse at Cape Engano sits on top of a hill where one can view the stunning Dos Hermanos islands The Philippine Commission on Sports SCUBA Diving (PCSSD) contributed by doing a survey of the reef areas on the west coast to assess it’s potential as a diving destination. The s cond step in the process was to identify the types of activities that visitors can engage in when visiting the island and things that they can learn as they engage in these activities. Through hiking, camping, snorkeling and engaging with the island residents that they can learn about history, Aeta culture, geology, geography, terrestrial and marine ecology, as well as the concept of responsible travel. In order to make the island safe and enjoyable, and to minimize the impact of visitors when they come to the island, infrastructure was put in place.
They came in the form of a hanging bridge, trail signages, camp site with running water, solar energy and restrooms. Even the dilapidated Bayanihan Hall was rehabilitated with financial assistance from Seacology, a Californiabased NGO.
It is now the centerpiece of Nature Village, the only established camp site in Palaui. Local residents were capacitated to provide various services which provided them opportunities to earn from the influx of tourists. Enterprises came in the form of boat rentals, guides in the forest and in the water when snorkeling, catering, homestay and acomodations in the camp site.
Even the PAMB earned through the collection of a P50.
00 user fee per visitor. Enhancements in the tourism products were essential to make the island competetive and provide life-changing experiences. They came in the form of sustainable practices, showcase of local food, Aeta culture, and in the use of educational materials such as flip charts and colorful quick guides. Standards are also critical if the island is to position itself for High Value/Low Volume tourism.
A document called Core Standards for Service Providers was developed to serve as a guide for all stakeholders engaged in the provision of services to tourists, including those in the mainland. The standards include rules pertaining to Environmental Aesthetics, Customer Relations, Grooming and Sustainable Practices.
BAISES, the acronym that stands for the various components in the ecotourism product development process is a tool developed by Chen Reyes-Mencias and is part of what she terms as Product Assembly. It is the process of putting together (in the right sequence) the various elements that comprise a tourism product.
HIGH VALUE LOW VOLUME STRATEGY This strategy was based on the premise that Palaui Island needs to be protected from irresponsible tourists. The branding is therefore crucial for tapping into the right market and not attract those who are generally destructive due to irresponsible behavior. CEZA has recently partnered with Primer Group of Companies, the owner of Recreational Outdoor Exchange to position the island for the market of ROX. Increasing the value of the tourism product is a good way of increasing the price and limiting the volume of tourist traffic in the protected area.
This will ensure income from tourism but limiting the negative impact of people. Palaui’s brand is Dream Island because a visitor can experience a pristine island without having to endure the discomfort of a difficult expedition like most mountaineers have to go through to visit remote locations. In Sta. Ana, one can stay in a comfortable hotel with aircon-rooms, hot shower and a restaurant and even a swimming pool, but still be able to enjoy a pristine island, learn about the forest, the coral reefs, the history and culture of the people.
Palaui island promises to deliver an authentic ecotourism experience that benefits the local community, the protected area and the tourists.
This strategy will ensure that the island remains a destination for many generations. PROFILE OF SPEAKER: CHEN REYES-MENCIAS Consultant Tourism Planning, Environmental Management and Environmental Education Chen Mencias is a consultant specializing on sustainable tourism development planning, coastal resource management and outdoor education. She is a free-lance top-side and underwater photographer and travel writer.
Her write ups and photographs had appeared in publications such as Health and Lifestyle, Health Today, Action Asia, Philippine Divers, Geo Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Jetset and ME magazine. For thirteen years she taught and certified people as SCUBA divers. She is a retired professional diving instructor affiliated with the National Association of Underwater Instructors, an international agency based in Florida.
She is co-founder of the environmental NGO Marine Ecosystem Council, Inc.
As part of this organization, she was actively involved in a nationwide giant clam restocking program designed to save the endangered bivalves from extinction and help restore life in damaged reef areas. For her deep involvement in biodiversity conservation, she received the International Underwater Foundation Environmental Achievement Award for 1999 administered by the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). The year before, Reader’s Digest recognized her as “Hero’ for Today” and was featured in Reader’s Digest Asia and Australia.
Chen has traveled throughout the Philippines diving, climbing, rappelling, kayaking and exploring some of the remote and pristine places of the country. For ten years she have organized dive tours to the Tubbataha National Marine Park, the only one of its kind in the Philippines.
And for the last eight years, she, together with her husband Louie Mencias had been organizing the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park Expedition, a demonstration of sustainable coastal tourism.
This expedition had been nominated to the World Legacy Award for sustainable tourism, organized by Conservation International and National Geographic Magazine. She completed her BS Tourism degree at the UP Asian Institute of Tourism and finished her MA Environmental Education degree at the Environmental Studies Institute of Miriam College in Manila. She recently graduated from the Diploma course on Urban and Regional Planning at the School of urban and Regional Planning at UP Diliman.
Chen is a motivational speaker giving lectures on various topics on personal development during team building workshops, environmental management for LGUs and communities and makes use of her expertise on environmental education to motivate people to shift to sustainable practices. She has been travelling all over the country conducting the seminar Basic Environment and Tourism Course or BETC for local government units and stakeholder groups.
She is also involved in community-based sustainable tourism projects in Cagayan, Bohol, Negros Occidental, Occidental Mindoro, Masbate, Cebu, Zambales and Davao Oriental.