SANTA ANA, Cagayan: The enchanting island of Palaui in the northeastern tip of Luzon has won the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Community-Based Tourism Award for 2019 to 2021.
Director Danilo Intong of the Department of Tourism (DoT)-Office of Tourism Standards and Regulation said the award recognizes associations in the region that “support sustainable livelihoods [and] protection of socio-cultural traditions and natural and cultural heritage.”
The Palaui Island’s major environmental group, the Palaui Environmental Protectors Association (PEPA), was selected for the award during the Asean Tourism Forum on January 18 in Halong City, Vietnam.
Palaui is 1.25 kilometers offshore from Santa Ana and is part of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, managed and operated by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).
It was declared a protected landscape and seascape in 1994.
Secretary Raul Lambino, CEZA administrator and chief executive officer, noted that while it was the government-ordered, six-month shutdown and clean-up of the world-famous Boracay that made global headlines, Palaui Island has emerged as a gem for sustainable tourism that “safeguards its socio-economic future.”
“This Asean award makes Filipinos proud. This shows us the way forward toward sustainable tourism,” Lambino said, adding that tourism on Palaui Island with its untouched beaches, waterfalls, rock formations, extensive forests, mangroves and a 300-hectare marine sanctuary, among others, runs on community-based enterprises that are active in providing various services to visitors.
CEZA, according to Lambino, has established micro enterprises at the downstream end, creating what is viewed as a business model that steers away from traps of uncontrolled tourism.
Since 2006, PEPA has trained the Aeta residents and other locals in Palaui such as fisherfolk, farmers, women and out-of-school youth in programs that arm them with skills to provide visitors with specific tourism-related services.
Headed by Gerry Iranga, it operates a “nature village complex” where visitors can stay overnight in the campsite around the Bayanihan Hall.
The major island activities are hiking through three trails that crisscross Palaui, and reef experience in five snorkeling areas identified by reef rangers.
Island residents, among them the Aetas, were also trained in the art of traditional massage, preparation of village cuisine, good hygiene and production of island souvenirs from indigenous materials.
Earlier, Palaui Island also earned a spot among CNN Go’s best beaches in the world, and was a two-time location of American television series “Survivor.”