Backyard Tourism Industry

Backyard Tourism Industry

By Apolinario Villalobos

I will never tire of espousing backyard tourism industry, the kind of small-scale industry that could assure steady but controlled flow of tourists, but still assure revenue for residents of touristic destinations. This is the only way by which nature and culture can be saved, with their pristine attributes maintained without sacrificing the income. This venture does not need high-rise structures, noisy establishments, prostitutes and drug pushers that follow the heels of lascivious leisure seekers.

The mistake of most governments, especially, the third world countries, lies in their misunderstanding of tourism. For them, tourism is translated into 5-star hotels and resorts even in rural areas where tourist spots are located. There is nothing wrong with these structures, even with the convention centers. But they should be situated in urban centers. Towns and villages, should be left to their laid back setting, supported only with nature-friendly facilities that are comfortable enough to satisfy the needs of visitors.

If the commercial accommodation facilities of small towns, villages and cities are not enough, what may be offered are residences of locals as “hospitality homes”. This is then, how the locals can have their direct share of revenue. The local government can come up with a list of local residents who are willing to rent out one or two rooms of their home to visitors for a minimal fee. The offering can include a package of meals and guided sightseeing tour.

What happened to Boracay should be a lesson to us. The island has been spoiled beyond recovery. When I visited the island years ago, with the late and former Antique governor, Evelio Javier, the island’s beaches were practically sparkling with powdery white sands lapped by crystal clear water. Only quaint fishermen’s cottages sparsely dotted the beaches. Coconut trees and fruit trees filled the inland. Coral reefs teemed with marine life.

Today, Boracay island suffers as marine sports facilities continue to destroy its coral reefs, seepage from septic tanks of resort facilities give life to a destructive kind of algae, and worst, prostitution and drugs that have practically overran the entire island!

With the inception of the move to encourage the movement of citizens of ASEAN member-countries within the region, by easing restrictive measures on travel, there is a need for all governments concerned to take extra precaution. Tourism is the last hope for the region to recover from losses that resulted from the WTO dream-like promises which proved exploitive at the expense of third world countries like the Philippines, and the rest of the southeast-Asian countries, as well. In this regard, the governments of the southeast-Asian countries should be extra careful in their moves. Destruction of natural attractions by unrestrained building of facilities because of the selfish desire to expedite revenue generation is like killing the duck that lays the golden eggs!

The ASEAN in the Eyes of a Filipino…and its tourism integration program

The ASEAN in the Eyes Of a Filipino
…and its tourism integration program
By Apolinario Villalobos

The Asians who belong to countries that comprise the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) have many things in common that led to their merging into a formidable conglomerate in the southeastern part of the globe. Except for the religions imposed by their Christian and Islamic aggressors, the rest of the unifying factors are steadfast in amalgamating the whole region into one strong organization.

Historically, the Filipinos came from the stock of migrants from Malaysia. And, even before the Spaniards, the Chinese and the Arabs came to the shores of the Philippines, the early Filipinos already had their own kind of government and thrive on a healthy business relation with neighboring Asian countries. In fact, the basic government unit of the Philippines, “barangay” is named after the long boat that Malaysian datus or chieftains used when they came to seek new lives on Philippine shores, when they escaped from the tyranny of their Chief Datu. The origin of the so-called indigenous pygmy inhabitants that the new settlers found are also traced to the Asian mainland when land bridges connected practically all islands in the region.

The desire among the neighboring Asians to unite was manifested when the late Philippine president, Diosdado Macapagal, initiated the organization of MAPHILINDO, composed of Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, now considered as the forerunner of the ASEAN. Had there been no political restraints, the ASEAN could have been formed much earlier. Nevertheless, with the ASEAN firmly established, the next move is the integration of its ideals and principles by the member-countries into their own.

Economically, the ASEAN is supposed to move alongside the World Trade Organization (WTO). There is a need then, to look keenly into the economic provisions that govern members of the WTO, so that they will not conflict with whatever the ASEAN provides as its own guidelines, particularly on matters that concern tariff requirements. The globalization of trade which is the main purpose of the WTO has pushed the third world countries to the corner. Not only did the WTO pummeled the small scale industries of the third world countries into uselessness, but their agriculture, as well, which should be the foundation of their economy. The questions now are: can the ASEAN provide the needed balancing factor that its members have long been in dire need of for their economic recovery? Can the ASEAN put a check on the exploitive provisions of the WTO, that have put Southeast Asian countries in a disadvantaged position? Can the ASEAN propel the economy of the region towards progress, if not at least, help recover what have been lost by the concerned Southeast Asian countries?

The grassroots of the third world countries used to depend on their small scale industries and agriculture for subsistence. Unfortunately, these basic sources of livelihood have been practically mowed down by the WTO. There is a need, then, for ASEAN to flex its muscle to trigger a self-reliant co-operation of the member- countries. If the European Union as a region can do it, why can’t the ASEAN?

On the issue of the disputed, historically so-called South China Sea, the brass aggressiveness of the China has overshadowed its purported aim to play “big brother” to the ASEAN countries, some of which lay claim to shoals and reefs. It is this “big brother” attitude that has made the Chinese openly defiant to the move of any involved country to seek mediation of a third party, but which the Philippines did. The only way for the ASEAN countries to effectively come to terms with China is to be united first, so that a synchronized move can be made. If the dispute is over the natural resources in the area, there should be a compromised agreement on how they can be fairly utilized by the involved parties. But first, the whole area should be cleared of any tangible manifestation of claim. It should be patrolled by some kind of “multinational maritime security force” composed of representatives from ASEAN countries and China which shall also initiate the guidelines as basis for negotiations. A failure on any compromising effort to unify the ASEAN members shall definitely cause a hairline crack in the organization’s foundation to the advantage of China.

The ASEAN shall tackle two issues to make it truly a daunting organization that stands for the well-being of its members – the WTO and South China Sea. Only then, can its people proudly stand with self-respect as Southeast Asians.

But for the hardy Asians, one last hope that can be tackled for economic recovery is the area of tourism. And, as mentioned in the ASEAN tourism integration program, the effort shall start with the members. Restrictions will be relaxed so that citizens of member countries of ASEAN can move around the region without much to worry about, as if they are moving around their own country.

Along this line, my own view is that there is a need for all concerned to exert greater effort in preserving the natural settings of areas to be opened to tourists. The Pattaya of Thailand and Boracay of the Philippines, as well as, other islands dotting the India Ocean, have been abused to the extreme in the name of money. They are all examples of exploitive and abusive tourism. The pristine beauty of the islands are now beyond recovery or repair in view of destroyed coral reefs, white beaches littered with different kinds of debris, septic tanks that seep, prostitution, and drugs.

Member countries of ASEAN, this time, should use “hospitality” as the centerpiece of the tourism integration program, and not “luxury”. By “hospitality”, simple pension houses, hospitality homes, dormitories, and 2-star hotels and resorts with convenient facilities can more than satisfy the requirements of fellow Asians. On the other hand, by “luxury”, there will be a need for the construction of luxurious 5-star resorts and hotels which will definitely destroy the skyline and setting of the touristic areas and give rise to prostitution and proliferation of drugs – all leading to the deterioration of the people’s values and culture.

The some kind of “backyard tourism” should be controlled by ordinances that limit the aspect of management to locals, and most importantly, not allow investment on infrastructure by foreigners. This may sound harsh, but it is the only way to show that Southeast Asians can be on their own. The foreign investors have already did their exploitation by establishing factories that employed cheap labor…and nothing happened out of such “generosity”. Instead, the foreign investors use their investments in blackmailing employees by threats of shut down and transfer to other countries, if demand for higher pay is made.

The ASEAN tourism integration program, in my view, is a brighter hope as it has initiated the removal of the barrier among the member citizens. It is the sign that many have been waiting for, that would unite the region against the exploitation of the rich and “generous” nations.