Discipline: Environmental Studies
The conservation of protected areas in the world has been used as a strategy for sustainable development. The Philippine National Integrated Protected Areas Systems Act (NIPAS) provides the policy framework for conservation of natural parks and other areas but its implementation is hampered by various socio political problems and issues. The research seeks to contribute to improved practice of conservation in protected areas by proposing a framework for enhancing protected area management through ecohistorical tourism, capacity-building and environmental education.
The research has two objectives: to identify elements in a framework for enhancing protected area management through ecohistorical tourism, capacity building and environmental education; and to apply the framework through action research in the Biak-na-Bato National Park (BNBNP). The park is significant due to its role in Philippine history as a hiding place of revolutionaries and its unique features in geology and biodiversity. However, conservation is threatened by excessive extraction of natural resources, poverty and poor tourism practices.
The initial framework that was developed from an extensive literature review identified four major components, namely; protected area management, ecohistorical tourism, capacity-building and environmental education. This framework was applied through three cycles of action research in the BNBNP. The first cycle involved the establishment of the BNBNP Conservation Project. The second cycle involved institutional strengthening and developing collaboration amongst the identified stakeholders. The third cycle included capacity building of the stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of the park and the institutions contributing to conservation.
At the conclusion of the three cycles the four major components remained the same. However, some of the elements within each component were revised. The four elements of protected area management for social change include pursuing the goals of conservation of protected areas values; promoting multi-stakeholder participation; addressing the needs of local communities by recognizing their role in developing and empowering them; and seeking an integrated approach to the sustainability of the protected area, the communities and the institutions involved in protected area management. Protected area management for social change can be enhanced through ecohistorical tourism, capacity-building and environmental education.
Ecohistorical tourism proved to be a viable economic driver in protected area management and a tool for environmental education. The four elements of ecohistorical tourism include: conserving biodiversity by minimizing its impact and enhancing degraded areas; increasing the quality of life of the host communities; building a constituency for conservation and sustainable development; and providing direct financial benefits for conservation and through sharing the financial benefits with the local people.
Capacity-building proved to be a significant success factor in overcoming the constraints of marginalized groups living in and around protected areas such as BNBNP. The four elements of capacity-building for social change are: increasing the capacities of the many types of stakeholders; enhancing the capacities of disadvantaged groups, thus empowering them; operating on multidimensional levels; and increasing capacities through the role of civil society.
The elements of environmental education for social change are: capacity building; engaging schools, by entertaining and educating students and other members of the school community; developing nature interpretation by informing and motivating visitors; and using the media to secure a better informed general public regarding the protected area.