To protect and preserve our ecotourism sites, the Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) has develop a manual on visitors’ carrying capacity (CARCAP).
The CARCAP guide is called “Manual on Computing the Carrying Capacity of Ecotourism Sites in Protected Areas”.
The manual is an essential tool in limiting the number of tourists that is allowed to stay in a tourists spot to address the potentially dangerous congestion in tourist spots while sustaining tourism growth and preserving the environment, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-ERDB (DENR-ERDB) Acting Director Dr. Henry A. Adornado said.
“Most of the ecotourism sites in the Philippines are in the protected areas (PAs). Thus, carrying capacity (CARCAP) is crucial for the safeguard of the environment,” Adornado added.
The manual supports the Administrative Order (AO) 2013-19 or “Guidelines on Ecotourism Planning and Management in Protected Areas” which was issued by the DENR in 2013 prescribing that carrying capacity of each ecotourism site in the PA should be established.
As part of the ecotourism management plan, the CARCAP regulates visitors’ activities properly to ensure that potential negative impacts on the environment are avoided.
Under the CARCAP, the number of visitors that an ecotourism site can accommodate at satisfactory level is determined based on biophysical considerations, recreational activities, visitors’ preferences, equipment brought to the site, and services provided in the site, according to Dr. Lope A. Calanog, CARCAP manual author and former ERDB supervising science research specialist.
Likewise, the site’s environmental condition and its importance on biodiversity affect the computation of numbers of visitors that may be allowed in an area.
As well as sites that serve as breeding grounds for important birds, nesting areas for marine turtles, or spawning grounds for fish species and its socio-cultural aspects or a portion of the ecotourism cited as a sacred grove for indigenous people or other ethnolinguistic groups.
In deciding the carrying capacity of ecotourism sites, ERDB applies the idea of Limit of Acceptable Change (LAC). This concept follows the nine-stage process formulated by Stankey et al. in 1985 as an approach in managing a tourism area.
This framework sets measurable standards for managing recreation in natural areas. Likewise, provides process for deciding what environmental and social conditions are acceptable.
Most importantly, this quantified and assessed the costs and benefits of tourism.
The LAC identifies tourism area’s features and values; describes “opportunity classes” where diversity of an area is increased; selects indicators of resource and social conditions; inventory resource and social conditions; and records and maps the presence of exotic plants, impacted campsites, damaged vegetation, litter and human waste.
Certain strategies are recommended by ERDB to increase CARCAP of a tourism site based on LAC application.
Among these strategies are new recreational activities may be introduced; redesigning the facilities such as view decks, tracks, trails; strengthening of durability of resources such as camping and parking areas; and developing access to other interest sites like covered walks.
In the ERDB’s recent CARCAP studies in the underground river in Puerto Princesa Subterranean (Underground) River (PPUR) in Palawan, Mt. Banahaw in Quezon province, Pamilacan Island in Bohol, and Boracay.
The results shown that in the case of PPUR, the number of visitors that may be accommodated is 1,456 per day if the recommended distance between boats that carry people is 15 meters.
However, if it is a 100-meter distance between boats, a fewer number of visitors of 18 per day may be allowed.
In the case of the Pamilacan Island in Bohol—a site for watching dolphins, whales, whale sharks, and manta rays—the CARCAP has not yet been exceeded by actual tourist arrivals.
The determination of CARCAP of various areas for resource conservation, ecotourism, and sustainable development is one of the five banner programs of the Research Sector of the DENR.
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