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Paje pushes ‘voluntourism’

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05:11 AM February 24th, 2013

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February 24th, 2013 05:11 AM

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Tourists must leave a healing rather than a damaging footprint on local communities and the natural world, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said on Saturday, as he announced his campaign for a different brand of tourism called “voluntourism.”

An amalgam of volunteerism and tourism, voluntourism refers to travels for charity.

In a statement, Paje encouraged Filipinos to plan their summer vacations with charitable and environmental causes in mind.

In partnership with the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is embarking on a new campaign would that seek to stir Filipinos’ “bayanihan” or community spirit to help rebuild the environment, especially in disaster-hit areas.

The idea is to rehabilitate and protect the country’s environment while luring visitors who could stimulate the local economy, Paje said.

He said the concept of voluntourism was being worked out between the DENR and the DOT for public promotion, with Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley as areas of concern following the massive environmental damage wrought in the two provinces by Typhoon “Pablo” in December.

“Tourists can go there to help build houses for villages destroyed or wiped out by flash floods. That is voluntourism,” Paje said.

According to Paje, coordinators for the National Greening Program (NGP), the country’s massive reforestation program, have been tasked to identify and designate other areas where visitors can undertake tree-planting activities.

Paje presented the idea at the recent signing of a memorandum of agreement between the DENR and DOT to promote sustainable tourism activities in key biodiversity areas around the country.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, who was present at the MOA signing, reiterated the important link between tourism and the environment.

“With tourism comes awareness; with awareness, understanding and with understanding, caring. For every person whose eyes are opened with every visit, the safer our environment will become,” Jimenez said.

Paje said other voluntourism activities that people may be interested in signing up for include cleaning up riverbanks, coastal areas and waterways.

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