The Department of Tourism (DOT), in celebration of World Environment Month this June, emphasized the importance of tourists educating themselves on sustainable interaction with marine wildlife.
Come the second half of the year, the DOT will conduct awareness seminars to educate tourism stakeholders on sustainable and responsible marine tourism guidelines, especially now that local tourism continuously picks up on coastal destinations.
“Observing marine wildlife in its natural habitat is incredibly fulfilling and quite an experience you cannot forget,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.
However, she stressed that, while this is an extraordinary experience, "irresponsible interaction with marine wildlife can cause severe long-term damage to them and their environment."
“Respecting the ocean and its inhabitants must be the top priority of every tourist who wants to connect with marine wildlife. Learning how to properly engage with these species is a small but crucial step in protecting and sustaining our marine biodiversity,” Puyat added.
The guidelines are part of the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2020 – 01 on Rules and Regulations Governing the Conduct of Marine Wildlife Tourism Interaction in the Philippines (JMC).
It was issued by the DOT last year in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture (DA), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
The JMC guidelines include the establishment of zones in marine tourist destinations (No Approach Zones, Interaction Zones, and Waiting Zones), the Code of Conduct for persons and sea vessels within the zones, the Prohibited Acts within Dedicated Interaction Sites, the specific regulations per type of marine activity, and the responsibilities of the lead agencies in compliance monitoring and enforcement of the said regulations.
The purpose of the JMC guidelines is to ensure that tourism interactions do not adversely affect marine wildlife behavior and population. Particularly large marine vertebrates, such as dugong, cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises), whale sharks, other sharks, manta rays, and marine turtles.
Meanwhile, marine wildlife tourism sites in the country which are dedicated and compliant with the regulations will soon be identified, accredited, and recognized by the JMC as part of their future plans. That is why collaboration between public and private institutions is beneficial for preserving the Philippines ' natural resources.