text and photos by Prime Sarmiento
I am a journalist who covers environmental issues as a personal advocacy (and to this end, remains an active member oif the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists, Inc. (PNEJ) .
In my own own way, I try to be an eco-conscious consumer. I bring reusable bags to shop, I persuaded my parents to switch to eating organic brown rice, I buy handcrafted soaps made of biodegradable ingredients. I turn off the faucet, the lights, the computer when I'm not using them.
Despite my efforts to be more eco-friendly, I still feel such a fake. I'm a solo female traveler, but when it comes to ecotourist activities – well, that's something I can't do. It's not that I can't appreciate natural environment, I do. But I can't go trekking and camp in the woods (I tried but I can't stand it). Scuba diving is out as I can't swim nor bird watching is an option (it bores me).
I' m more of a city gal, content in wandering around cafes, museums, temples and shalas. I also can't let go of things that someone raised in the city often take for granted only to find out later that she needs them to survive: a clean flush toilet, bed, coffee maker, wi-fi.
But my recent trip to Puerto Princesa, Palawan – a media exposure trip for PNEJ members – proved that even an urban adventuress like me can practice ecotourism by choosing a more sustainable form of traveling.
Sustainable travel in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
There are several ways of practicing sustainable traveling. It can be as simple as bringing reusable bags and refillable water bottles to help in limiting the solid waste problem in the place.
Or, if you're familiar with the climate change deal and you think a warmer planet is a personal concern, then sustainable tourism can start by choosing to travel in a climate-friendly city like Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
The capital of this western Philippine island has long been known for its natural wonders – pristine beaches, coral reefs, dense forest cover. Puerto Princesa city has been declared as a Biospheric Reserve by the United Nations in 1991 and is home to some of the country's best natural attractions – the Sabang mangrove forest and the Subterannean River National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site (and more known as the as the Palawan's Underground River).
These days, Puerto Princesa is vying to be a low-carbon city.
“Being an environmentalist is not just about planting trees. It 's also about looking into other aspects of the environment as well," Rebecca V. Labit, city tourism officer, said in a briefing with PNEJ. She then talked about the efforts of both the public and private sectors to limit its carbon emissions (which at 0.9 tons per capita a year is only half of the total Philippine emission of 1.7 tons/ capita).
The city government financed the conversion of diesel-powered tricycle engines to LPG (the tricyle is the most common form of public transport here). The city also has a well-planned waste management system – more than just collecting garbage, the city encourages waste segregation and is thinking ways of recycling its waste products (in one workshop, we learned that they're thinking of converting used plastic bags into bricks). Puerto Princesa's carbon emissions from road transport and electricity generation also is offset by its large forest cover.
Low carbon lifestyle in Puerto Princesa hotels
But perhaps, one of the most innovative of Puerto Princesa's low carbon initiative is its Zero Carbon Resorts program (ZCR).
Launched in 2010, with the support of the European Union, the ZCR aims to enable Puerto Princesa's hotels and resorts to switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy and to be more energy-efficient.
PNEJ members managed to stay in a resort that participates in ZCR. I'm happy to note that energy conservation efforts didn't affect the personal comforts of guests in this hotel.
Resort owner Ruben Tan, Jr. is one of the entrepreneurs who participated in the ZCR. Tan owns the upscale Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort and bed-and-breakfast inn Puerto Pension. In both his businesses, he installed solar tubes to provide lighting and energy saving gadgets that automatically turn off the lights and aircon when a guest leaves the room.
He also put up a solar-powered hot water supply system and a rainwater cistern that collects rainwater which are later filtered and reused as bath water.
Best of all, the resort is a beautiful and comfortable place to rest for a traveler who just wants to get away from it all.
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*The media trip was sponsored by the the local government of Puerto Princesa City and Ruben Tan, Jr., one of the businessmen who signed up for in the Zero Carbon Resorts program.
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