By Dolly Yasa
BACOLOD City – The top three officials of Sagay City, Negros Occidental underscored the thrust of the city government for sustainable tourism instead of mass tourism for the long-term preservation of the environment in the area.
“We are not into mass tourism, we are more into sustainable tourism which is low in volume but high in quality,” said Negros Occidental 2nd District Rep. Alfredo “Thirdy” Marañon III.
Marañon pointed out that “this is not a one-time deal, this is a lifetime process, so the next generation should also be educated to value the environment.”
Marañon said he, Sagay City Mayor Narwin Javelosa, and Vice Mayor Rafael Cueva worked together to see to it that the preservation of the environment does not bear the brunt in developing the tourism industry in the city.
Javelosa cited for instance Carbin Reef, a strip of white sand island off the coast of Sagay City, that is fast becoming popular with local and international tourists.
He said the city government has limited to only 100 the daily visitors to the island.
Cueva said this also goes for other tourist destinations in the city like Suyac Island, where visitors are also regulated.
Suyac Island Mangrove Eco-park is a community-based eco-tourism site just offshore from Sagay City, Negros.
It is managed by the Suyac Island Ecotourism Attendants Association in which all of the members are residents of the island.
The park is home to one of the oldest and largest Sonneratia Alba mangroves on Negros Island and includes other mangrove species.
It is located in the center of the 32,000-hectare Sagay Marine Reserve, the first of its kind in the country and established sometime in the 80s.
It is now recognized nationally and internationally as one of the most successful marine conservation programs in the Philippines and won the prestigious Gawad Galing Pook Award in 1997.
Cueva said that the preservation efforts of Sagay City are focused on minimizing congestion.
“Ang amon approach is ginagmay lng, pero ang magkadto di damo sila pilian,” Javelosa stressed.
The three acknowledged that what the city government is reaping now like the recent international award in Berlin was all started by the lawmaker’s father, then-mayor Alfredo Marañon Jr., who also served as governor of the province.
Sagay City was accorded a special People’s Choice Award for its entry in the “Mangrove Forest Protection through Community-based EcoTourism Project,” which also helped the city place second in the Nature and Scenery Category.
The city’s Suyac Island Mangrove Ecopark, located inside the Sagay Marine Reserve, is the first fully community-based ecotourism site in Sagay, offering an unparalleled experience and allowing travelers to connect with nature and local culture.
The three city officials said they are challenged to do more as far as the preservation of the environment is concerned because of the recent award.
Javelosa said that they will also soon revive the River Cruise with the developments projected undertaken at the Himoga-an Rover.
Also underway is the construction of an esplanade in the area.