January 17,2016. Blacktown NSW. The afternoon was sizzling hot but the voice of Ms Gina Lopez somehow cooled the day with her soft suave voice as she made a very inspiring presentation about how eco-tourism can help alleviate poverty in many parts of the Philippines.
She brought her audience — mostly members of media — to not-so-known regional areas where residents suffer in silence. “These people really need help,” she said during her hour-long presentation at the Waratah Room of Blacktown Workers Club.
Those who attended gasped at the unbelievable millions of pesos earned by local residents from eco-tourism projects that the foundation introduced in various areas in the Philippines. “Many of these places are unknown but are beautiful and can be developed into tourist spots,” said.
The foundation’s activities are very similar to the concept of “give a person a fish and you feed him for one day; teach him how to fish and you provide him food for a lifetime.”
Ms Lopez, however stressed her objection to cyanide and dynamite fishing which are still prevalent in other areas she has not yet visited.
“Ecotourism Paradise of the Planet — That’s my vision for the country. Come and visit the Philippines. You can go from island to island and experience beauty like no other, cuisine intrinsic to the place, the most beautiful people ever. Each island has its own unique magic. I haven’t been to Galapagos but I’ve been told one stays in a ship with five star accommodations and then go island to island. We can do that in the Philippines.” Ms Lopez posted in facebook.
It was some three years ago when the ABS-CBN Foundation mobilised Bantay Kalikasan to help develop and market two eco-tourism sites in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
Today, there are five flourishing eco-tourism and livelihood projects in Palawan. The communities are self-sufficient, with one site providing work to 275 families who are able to send their children to school, even up to college. More sites were launched last year in Saranggani, Sorsogon, Mindoro, Guimaras, South Cotabato and Samar.
In closing she said she looks forward to working with media. “Together, we can be an amazingly powerful force for national development. Let us work more closely, let’s work together. I want to hear your ideas. Tell me how to alleviate poverty in your hometowns, where you live or work. Tell me about undiscovered tourist destinations. Let’s help each other be a force for good.”