An environmental watchdog highlighted the need for concerted action to prevent and reduce garbage as tourism authorities step up the campaign to promote the “Visit the Philippines Year” in 2015.
In a statement issued after the Philippines grabbed the coveted “Destination of the Year” during the 25th Annual TTG Travel Awards recently held in Thailand, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed the importance of keeping the surroundings waste-free as a requisite for a successful tourism campaign.
“Tourists will be dismayed to walk in littered streets, frolic on filthy beaches or go snorkeling only to find discarded plastic bags in the bosom of the sea,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Nobody would want to holiday at a dirty destination where people seem to not care for the environment,” she pointed out.
“Tourists complaining of garbage will be a bad publicity and shoo prospective visitors away,” she added.
As it will take more than a “please don’t litter” signage to clean up the environment, the EcoWaste Coalition urged Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr. to convene a stakeholders’ forum to build support for Zero Waste tourism.
Vergara recalled that the DOT issued Memorandum Circular 2005-04 recognizing that "tourism establishments and facilities generate significant volume of waste that can be considerably reduced to zero if a policy on waste prevention, reduction, separation at source, recycling and composting is put in place and genuinely carried out."
The circular signed by then Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano cited the need to promote ecological solid waste management (ESWM) in the tourism sector, as well as include ESWM as a basic requirement for the accreditation of hotels and other tourism-related establishments.
The circular also cited the need to “green” tourism events and destinations.
The upcoming visit of Pope Francis in January and the country’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meetings and Leaders’ Summit in November 2015 are expected to enhance foreign tourist arrivals.
The proclamation of January as Zero Waste Month by no less than President Benigno S. Aquino III and the anticipated influx of tourists should encourage the DOT into retrieving the said policy from the archive and implementing creative and systematic waste prevention and reduction programs.
“We owe it to our visitors, to ourselves and to Mother Earth to stop the pervasive littering and throw-away culture that is harming our health, environment, climate and the economy,” Vergara said.
Based on government data, the national waste generation in 2015 is projected at 39,422 tons per day, up from 37,427 tons per day in 2012, as per calculation by the National Solid Waste Management Commission.
Metro Manila’s daily waste generation of 8,601 tons per day is estimated to rise to 9,060 tons per day in 2015.