STAKEHOLDERS’ PERCEPTION ON THE IMPACT OF DONSOL’S BUTANDING (WHALE SHARK) ECOTOURISM PROJECT: POLICY IMPLICATIONS FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND HUMAN SECURITY
In recent years the importance of ecotourism and sustainable development has come to the fore. The whale shark ecotourism phenomenon in Donsol is worth exploring on the grounds that the Philippines consider tourism as an important industry. This premise served as the focus of the study. Donsol is located in the northeastern part of the Province of Sorsogon. Large numbers of whale sharks can be found off its shores feeding on planktons and provided tourists with interaction opportunities as it is completely harmless. From a simple fishing village Donsol has gained renowned because of a successful ecotourism project in place since 1998. Donsol is situated in a region where social, political and economic situations conspire to paint a picture of underdevelopment. The study was exploratory in nature and served as research laboratory for the students enrolled in a course in Field Research. Data from previous studies as far as from 2005 were utilized as well as those currently gathered by the research class under the direction of the professor. Community immersions, focus group discussions, interviews and observations were employed in data gathering. Secondary materials from previous researches and official documents supplied additional information. The study sought the stakeholders’ opinion and attitude about the impact of the ecotourism, on conservation and threats to sustainability. The study revealed that the stakeholders considered the ecotourism project in positive light and that it has brought economic benefits for them. Although the respondents do not believe that the increasing numbers of tourists flocking to Donsol will affect the social balance there is however the apprehension among the few that in the future socially disruptive practices may disturb the social balance. The study also found out that there are enough laws and local ordinances that will protect the habitat of the Whale Sharks. The changing political landscape and the possible withdrawal of support received from outside organizations are considered major challenges to the sustainability of the program. Indeed this ecotourism project if it proves sustainable through time can become a showcase of sound environmental management that will promote and enhance human security and promotes sustainable development.
Keywords: sustainable development, sustainable ecotourism, human security, eco-governance
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