- Published on Friday, 06 July 2012 00:00
- Written by PAUL M. ICAMINA
By A Web design Company
Islands dot Eastern Bicol where coastal tourism means sun, sea and sand.
For all of these, plus the chance to see farming at work, visitors are willing to pay for the conservation of the sea and the landscape.
Willingness to pay for pristine sceneries means extra money to villagers, and there is a lot of it to go around, according to research presented at the 1st National Agritourism Research Conference convened by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the University of the Philippines Asian Institute of Tourism (UP AIT).
“In the course of our work in Southeast Asia, we have come to realize the importance of promoting alternative mechanisms that could serve as value added to agricultural initiatives, thus contributing to the diversification of income for farmers and fisherfolks,” said Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., SEARCA Director.
Agriculture and tourism contribute to rural development and “opens a whole new perspective for agriculture to contribute to our country’s development via the tourism route,” he said. “At the grassroots, it opens possibilities for diversification of income and community involvement. We are taking a bold step in placing our belief up front that agriculture and tourism have convergence points.”
“The combination of agriculture and tourism presents a massive potential for economic development in rural areas,” said Dr. Miguela M. Mena, Dean of UP AIT. “This pioneering research conference signals a much anticipated growth in agritourism, a synergy of two of the most dynamic industries in the Philippines.”
While the Department of Agriculture has identified agritourism as a “product” since 2001, it has yet “to be promoted and marketed,” she said, adding very little research has been done on the economic value of agritourism.
There are figures here and there. Willingness to pay, for example, is based on research made in San Miguel Island, on the eastern Pacific side of Bicol, which is vulnerable to the influence of the Equatorial Current that spawns typhoons.
Changing weather patterns have adverse implications for agriculture, so that developing recreational tourism can diversify livelihood in the island, says the study made by Raul G. Bradecina of the Partido State University in Goa, Camarines Sur; Teruyuki Shinbo of Kochi University, Asakura Campus, Kochi City; and Plutomeo M. Nieves of Bicol University, Tabaco Campus.
And yet, they argue, coastal assets are not identified by market instruments nor by policy mechanisms to make them respond to the preferences of tourists for rural settings.
It’s a lost opportunity to provide more jobs, more income, a more viable rural society and a more sustainable and diverse environment, said Bradecina.
A survey of Tabaco, Albay, residents just across the waters from the island, shows that with a higher household income, with a higher level of awareness of what a Marine Protected Area is all about, and who had visited San Miguel before, they are more willing to pay an extra amount of money to promote conservation,
Asked whether they were willing to pay for the island’s conservation, majority (91.8 percent) of Tabaco residents expressed willingness to visit – and pay.
At a total of 123,513 households in Tabaco, on the mainland, the conservation benefits of the coastal assets translate to P163.3 million a year, said Bradecina.
Margaret M. Calderon of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) College of Forestry and Natural Resources, and Josefina Dizon of the UPLB College of Public Affairs, also discussed the willingness of tourists to pay for the conservation of the Cordillera rice terraces.
The problems confronting the terraces include neglected irrigation facilities that have resulted in inadequate water supply in the rice paddies; low rice yields; landslides and collapsed terrace walls; earthworm and snail infestation; unregulated development due to tourism; and out-migration.
“Some farmers have abandoned rice farming in the terraces,” Calderon said. “If this trend continues, the terraces that the Ifugaos built more than 2,000 years ago can be ruined.”
Her research investigated the possibility of tapping tourism to develop a sustainable conservation financing mechanism for the terraces.
The Willingness To Pay figure was estimated to be P440 for local tourists and $71 for foreigners. These figures are much higher than the uniform fees now collected by two towns ranging from 20 to 60 US cents per local and foreign tourist, respectively.
The study recommended that local governments increase their tourist fees. To ensure continuity, the revenues should be placed in a trust fund to be managed by a council that is not controlled by politicians. The fund should be used mainly to support the rehabilitation of terrace walls and irrigation canals.
Another study puts a premium on Taal Lake, the volcano island and surrounding communities which are popular for tawilis, milkfish, farming and recreational tourism such as fishing, hiking, camping, boating, wind surfing, sailing and kayaking.
So how much are these worth to the visitor? Dr. Arvin B. Vista of the UPLB College of Economics and Management, looked at the recreational value of the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape – a major agritourism attraction and a fragile biodiversity hotspot.
The 10-year management plan for Taal also wanted to set a value on the landscape’s beauty through Willingness To Pay surveys and reflect these values in recreation fees.
With scarce financial resources, limited government spending, deteriorating landscape conditions, Vista thought an approximate valuation was acceptable, based on a research tool called benefit transfer application.
Benefit transfer is the use of information from research conducted on other sites to answer questions at another site, in this case Taal Volcano.
Employing the point transfer estimate, the total recreational value of the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape ranges from P9.7 million from 155,701 visitors at the Batangas side and P118.9 million from 1,906,242 visitors at the Cavite side in 2006. Or a sum of about P128 million.
Another estimate puts the range from P165 million from 155,701 visitors at the Batangas side and P2.026 billion from 1,906,242 visitors at the Cavite side in 2006, or a sum of P2.191 billion.