MANILA, Philippines — Palaui Island in the northeastern tip of Luzon in Cagayan Valley has brought honor to the country by winning the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community-Based Tourism Award for 2019-2021 held in Vietnam last week.
The award recognizes associations in the region that support sustainable livelihoods, protection of socio-cultural traditions and natural and cultural heritage.
“Palaui Island won the award for promoting sustainable tourism through the efforts of the island’s environmental group, the Palaui Environmental Protectors Association (PEPA),” said Raul Lambino, administrator and CEO of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).
Since 2006, the PEPA has trained locals 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, including environmental protection.
Palaui, an idyllic island located northeast of Luzon, is described as one of the world’s best beaches and eco-tourism destinations because of its natural beauty and rich biodiversity.
In 2013, CNN Travel adjudged Palaui Island as one of the world’s 10 best beaches, the only one from the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region to make it to the prestigious list.
In early 2014, the American reality TV show Survivor Cagayan (28th season) which was film in Palaui Island topped the 8 p.m. television show ratings in the United States with 9.9 million viewers, beating American Idol’s 9.6 million, ABC’s The Middle, NBC’s Revolution and CW’s Arrow with 7.2 million, 4.7 million and 1.2 million viewers, respectively.
The CEZA facilitated the filming of the Survivor series, including the previous (27th) season’s Blood vs. Water, as part of its tourism development and investment plans for the economic zone, which covers Santa Ana, a once-obscure fishing town.
CEZA Usec. Raymundo Roquero said that aside from the magnificent cove in the island, Palaui is also known for its untouched beaches, waterfalls, rock formations, extensive forests, mangroves and a 300-hectare marine sanctuary.
Roquero said CEZA has established microenterprises at the downstream end, creating what is viewed as a business model that steers away from the pitfalls of uncontrolled tourism.
He said CEZA also trained island residents in the art of traditional massage, preparation of local cuisine (village kitchens), good hygiene and production of island souvenirs from indigenous materials.
Declared a protected landscape and seascape in 1994 by Presidential Proclamation No. 447, Palaui, 1.25 kilometers offshore from Sta. Ana town, is part of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, which is managed and operated by the CEZA.