Pusod Inc. organized the “1st Taal Volcano Protected Landscape Ecotourism (TVPL) Summit 2014” last November 24-28, from 9am to 5pm at Pusod Taal Lake Conservation Center, Sitio Lipute, Barangay Kinalaglagan, Mataasnakahoy, Batangas. There were 56 participants who are community tour guides, tourism officers and other tourism service providers from TVPL.The 5-day event was in partnership with Taal Volcano Protected Landscape Protected Area Superintendent Office and Globe Bridging Communities. It aimed to build capacity on ecotour guiding and nature interpretation of local guides with topics on conservation values, historical and socio-cultural contexts, biological and physical features of TVPL. The various workshop sessions include: Personality and Values Development, Tasks and Techniques of Effective Ecotour Guiding, and Creation, Pricing and Costing of Ecotourism Packages. A bonus feature is a special session on marketing and promotion of ecotourism.

The first day of the summit was packed beginning with a presentation by Protected Area Superintendent for TVPL, For. Vic Mercado, in behalf of Regional Executive Director Reynulfo Juan, presented the Protected Area Management Objectives and Conservation Values, as supported in the various chapters of the Management Plan. The ASEAN Center for Biodiversity represented by Mr. Norman Ramirez presented the Asean Heritage Parks Programme which manages a regional network of representative protected areas for greater collaboration among the member states in preserving their shared natural heritage. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology presented the highlights of the Geophysical Characteristics and Significant Eruptions of Taal Volcano. National Museum Researcher from the Archeology Division, Mr. Timothy Vitales, presented historical artifacts found within TVPL and explained its relevance in the history and culture of the communities within. University of Santo Tomas’ (UST) Limnology Doctoral Candidate, Dino Tordesillas showed the unique biological characteristics of the lake water and presented previous and current researches being conducted geared towards biodiversity conservation. Currently, UST, in partnership with California Academy of Sciences, is a grantee of the Partnership for Enhancement Engagement in Research (PEER) Program administered by the US National Academy of Sciences.

The Ecotourism Business Plan of the Municipality of San Nicolas, Batangas was presented by Mayor Epifanio Sandoval. He emphasized the importance of having such a plan as the initial step and that resources should be focused on the implementation of the plan as the important second step. A case in point is that his Municipality has ensured that it is included in their Annual Investment Plan. He further stressed that more support, from the Province of Batangas, Department of Tourism and other related government agencies, is needed in realizing the ecotourism plan. He has acknowledge the support of the TVPL PAMB and DENR RIVA in supporting the drafting and approval of the Ecotourism Business Plan for his Municipality. The plan was drafted with technical assistance provided by Blue Water Consultancy Team headed by the husband and wife tandem of Louie and Chen Mencias.

The afternoon parallel workshop sessions include Personality and Values Development, Tasks and Techniques of Effective Ecotour Guiding, and Creation, Pricing and Costing of Ecotourism Packages. The first two were facilitated by De La Salle Lipa – College of Hospitality and Tourism Management Chairperson, Ms. Andrenelyn Varona. Ms. Varona has been the consistent ecotourguiding facilitator partner of Pusod, Inc. She has also recently participated in the Conference on Sustainable Tourism and Hospitality in Asia held in Hiroshima, Japan.

Pricing and Costing, Promotion and Marketing of Ecotourism Packages, were also presented by Ms. Juliet Corpuz of Pinay Key Point (http://www.pinaykeypoint.org/). Pinay Key Point has started organizing tours to Mt. Pinatubo since 2008 and a DTI-accredited Tour Operator.

The second day provided an opportunity for TVPL Municipalities to present a basic profile of the ecotourism sites identified by the PAMB Members during the 2nd PAMB Summit. The Municipalities of Tanauan, Talisay, and Agoncillo shared their videos. Only Talisay and San Nicolas presented their ecotourism packages for Daang Kastila and 1911 crater respectively. Mataasnakahoy and Balete are both included in Pusod TLCC’s Knowledge Tour Package via Calawit Trail. During the discussions, the group agreed that a Tourism Master Plan should be the next focus of resources so that each Municipality will complement each other rather than compete.

On the 3rd day, Nov. 26, there were field visits in Old Tanauan, in Talisay, Ambon-ambon Falls in Laurel, Old Taal Church Ruins in San Nicolas; Bombon Ruins in Sta. Teresita, and Binukalan Shrine in Alitagtag. During the field visits, the heritage and ecotourism values of the sites were highlighted. The following day, the tour guides and tour officers presented the revised version of the heritage and ecotourism packages with revised costing. This became an opportunity for the tour guides to establish potential linkages between and among each other and their sites based on distance and accessibility. On the final day of the summit, Jun Tibi of Kawil Tours from Palawan and Paolo Abellanosa of Travel Update Philippines presented best practice models of community-based tourism. Cavinti, Laguna’s Municipal Agriculturist, Vina Orolfo presented their Cave Management Plan. The proposed Music and Arts Festival for TVPL was presented by LTN Events Chief Executive Officer, Lui Nario. Atty. Ipat Luna shared updates on the World Parks Congress recently held in Sydney, Australia. The activity was concluded by a performance from the Original Sinala Subli Dancers from Bauan, Batangas.

The holistic approach of this event hopes to instill the value of conservation of the ecotourism sites identified by the TVPL PAMB Members during the 2nd PAMB Summit. This underscores the conservation and other unique values of TVPL, to building the capacity of tour guides in engaging visitors, and to tap in the high end market of heritage and ecotourism. De La Salle Lipa Tourism Faculty and Students, Batangas State University Research and Extension Office and STI Lipa City were also collaborators in this activity. Travel Update Philippines is the official media partner for the event.