Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (center) of the Department of Tourism presents the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community-Based Tourism Award for 2019-2021 to Community Relations Specialist Grace Ruiz (left) of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) on January 18, 2019 at FLC Ha Long Bay Golf Club and Luxury Resort, Ha Long City, Vietnam.
The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) received the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community-Based Tourism Standard 2019-20121 award on behalf of the Palaui Environmental Protectors Association (PEPA) On January 18, 2019 at Ha Long City, Vietnam. The said award recognizes PEPA to have passed the standards set by ASEAN for community-based tourism, which include standards for community ownership, for contribution to social well-being, for conserving and improving the environment, for encouraging interaction between the local community and guests, for quality tor and guiding services, for ensuring quality food and beverage services, for ensuring quality accommodations, and for ensuring the performance of community-based tour operators.
PEPA is a CEZA-assisted community-based sustainable tourism group located in Palaui Island, Sta. Ana, Cagayan, which is part of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) jurisdiction. The group, which has been in existence since 1993, was organized mainly as the guardians of the Island to help the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) II in its mandate. PEPA practiced the concept of “bayanihan”, such that the members helped each other in monitoring tourists or outsiders to ensure the conservation and management of the area.
It was in early 2000’s when CEZA came to the picture of PEPA. CEZA had provided a redirection of the group by opening income opportunities to the organization. The concept of “bayanihan” was maintained but, this time, improved, such that the members would help each other provide ecotourism products and services for guests of Palaui.
Since then, CEZA has been providing support to the group in more ways than one – from formal organization, livelihood trainings, re-organization to sub-groups, to capacity building, among many others. From simply being the guardians of Palaui Island, PEPA is now an earning community-based organization that has also become the mother organization of seven sub-groups, namely the PEPA Weavers Association, Palaui Island Tour Guides, Palaui Island Women’s Catering, Palaui Island Reef Rangers, Palaui Island SPA, Palaui Island Honey Hunters Marketing Cooperative and Palaui Island Home-Stay. From 71, PEPA now has 325 members.