In Bolinao, Pangasinan, the government is focusing on more than just sightseeing. They are adding an educational and environmental tour to the mix so that Silaki Island can become a sustainable tourist spot that also protects its marine ecosystem.
Silaki Island is in the middle of Bolinao and is shaped like a heart. It is famous for having a 16-hectare marine reserve where thousands of giant clams live. People can not only look in awe at these huge fish, but the project also gives them the chance to do things like make local rice cakes, dry fish, and make native bags.
The tourist officer for Bolinao, Mary de Guzman-Suarez, told the Philippine News Agency that the project's goal is to teach people about how important giant clams are to keeping the environment in balance. The plan includes many different things to do, such as a mini-museum with fossilized giant clams and cultural artifacts, a community immersion center, and nature walks for people who like to watch birds and take pictures.
This project, called "The Legacy of the Sea: A Silaki Island Community-Based Tourism Project," is a partnership between the city government of Bolinao and the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UPMSI). Vice Mayor Richard Celeste came up with the idea for it. This creative project is one of the top five finalists in the Department of Tourism's Tourism Champion Challenge (TCC). The goal of the challenge is to bring new life to tourist spots through creative and environmentally friendly projects.
De Guzman-Suarez talked about how important giant clams are, pointing out that they clean the water in the ocean, provide homes for marine life, and help coral reefs form, all of which protect the sea's role as an important source of income for the community. With UPMSI's experience taking care of thousands of giant clams, including eight of the country's nine species, the project sets aside areas for recreation, study, and conservation so that the marine environment isn't too much affected.
Additionally, the project aims to provide the local people with different ways to make money besides fishing, which would be a big step toward more sustainable tourism. The entry port will be built with the prize money from the DOT competition. Work on it is set to start in the first quarter of the year.
The TCC winners, who will be revealed on February 21, will get cash prizes of PHP7 million to PHP20 million, which will give the best projects a big boost.