CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – As Camiguin Island expects to hit 1 million tourists this year, the island's leaders embark on a study on its carrying capacity vis-a-vis environmental impact.
Camiguin Governor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo said that while they would want more tourists to come to the island, they also want to ensure that ecological balance and tourism footprints and impact are within acceptable parameters.
Taking their cue from what's happening in other island destinations, Romualdo said that minimizing tourism's environmental impact is key to creating a sustainable tourism industry in Camiguin, an island with a 95% employment rate according to reports.
The island province is strategically located north of Cagayan de Oro and south of Bohol, and received a total of P213 million in investments in the first 3 quarters of 2019.
In 2018, Camiguin had 688,587 tourists, and from January 2019 to September 2019, it had 568,163 tourists, with a growth of 7% based on a 5-year compound average growth.
With airlines now traveling regularly to the island from Cebu and Manila, the province enjoys an 11.56% growth in commercial aircraft movement and a 7% increase in passenger traffis. Given this, Romualdo says there is a need to take further actions to protect and conserve the island’s environment.
Since 2016, Camiguin has packaged itself as an alternative to the usual travel destinations, a relaxing, laid-back island with waterfalls and all kinds of springs. The island also embarked on a marketing campaign highlighting how verdant and clean it is, while also asking tourists to be part of its environmental preservation.
"Before, we would want to have more visitors, but that's not really right. We want more tourists here, but now, we want it to be within the carrying capacity of our island," Romualdo said.
The provincial government plans to ensure this through the Population Carrying Capacity project.
“We are happy to share that we have started first steps last year towards establishing carrying capacity limits in our ecotourism sites, to be able to determine the maximum number of individuals of species that can be sustained by the environment and sustain that same number in the future,” Romualdo explains. (READ: Whale sharks return to Camiguin, gov't asks tourists, locals to let them be)
The provincial government together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will gather data that will serve as the benchmark for infrastructure, population, water consumption for households, hotels and resorts, waste generation, wastewater, biodiversity, municipal profile, and other limiting factors to be used in data analysis.
"In Bhutan, they limit their tourist arrivals on a monthly basis but made sure that those tourists will spend more, thereby getting more substantial tourist spending while limiting their arrivals, minimizing environmental impact," Romualdo said.
In 2019, Camiguin had a total estimated income of P639 million, with P72 million coming from local source income and an Internal Revenue Allotment of P566 million pesos. – Rappler.com