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The Philippines:

Discover how sustainable tourism is transforming lives

A responsible approach to tourism is not only having a remarkable impact on wildlife, it’s also helping locals too

Written by Laura Mullan

It’s no wonder the Philippines has become such a popular holiday hotspot. Across the archipelago you’ll find everything from powder-white beaches and remote tropical jungles to emerald-green rice fields and bustling cosmopolitan cities. But a trip to the Philippines is about much more than cinematic views and wildlife encounters. With a world-class reputation for hospitality, it’s the locals who help make this country a one-of-a-kind destination.

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Whichever of the Philippines’ 7,641 islands you visit, you’re sure to be greeted with a warm welcome. So, how amazing is it to know that as a tourist you’ll also be helping to give something back? Thanks to the Philippine Tourism Act – an act designed to transform and empower – tourism has helped improve the lives of the local people. The act is now celebrating its 10th anniversary, so read on to find out just how this industry is helping Filipinos on a very personal level:

Protector of the ocean

Bobby Adrao used to be a fisherman, but now he helps protects one of the ocean’s largest species, the majestic whale shark or Butanding. As a Butanding Interaction Officer, he helps tourists swim with these gentle creatures, educating them about their dwindling numbers. Green tourism has been transformative for Bobby – he now has a sustainable livelihood and sends his children to school – and, thanks to a protected environment, the whale sharks are beginning to thrive again too.

Whale sharks may be one of the largest species in our oceans, but these gentle giants sadly became endangered through a combination of reasons. Habitat loss, overfishing of the reefs and pollution have played havoc on their populations – but, in the Philippines as a whole, ecotourism is starting to have a remarkable effect. You can see this first-hand with Bobby's great work, which is in Donsol, Sorsogon. The local authority has also helped by employing sea wardens to protect the coast from poachers and destructive fishing practices, ensuring that these magnificent creatures can thrive for years to come.

Spotting dolphins for a living

Angelo Cayabo used to be a struggling dishwasher, earning only the equivalent of 30p a day. He knew his family faced a life of poverty – but with his resourcefulness and determination he wasn’t ready to give up. Seeing tourists’ fascination with dolphins, he started researching them and decided to set up his own business offering dolphin and whale watching tours.

It’s now a successful family business, and his ground-breaking research into dolphin watching has helped to boost tourism in his city. Businesses like Angelo’s have had a positive environmental impact, too. With many locals depending on the ocean for their incomes, sustainable tourism has stressed the importance of responsible fishing and dolphin conservation.