The Department of Tourism (DOT), seeing the huge potential of whale shark interaction to provide jobs and livelihood for the municipality of Oslob in Cebu, has committed to support its development as a sustainable tourism product.
Following the recent assessment done by its regional office, DOT Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. instructed Undersecretary Maria Victoria V. Jasmin and Region VII Director Rowena Montecillo to start working on the recommendations submitted. “This opportunity to bring economic benefits to the community of Oslob has to be carefully planned and managed so that it continues as a sustainable activity. We are offering our assistance to augment the local government unit’s initial interventions towards sustainability,” the Secretary said.
“DOT sees the importance of giving training for the boatmen particularly on safety and security and values formation. A Tourism Awareness program is also necessary to educate the community on responsible, ethical and sustainable tourism. For food service providers, particularly small vendors, a Food Safety Seminar will also be given. Considering the absence of accommodation establishments, DOT will embark on the training of qualified households on the operation of homestay services,” Undersecretary Jasmin remarked.
Director Montecillo added that the whale shark watching activity has been regulated to avoid direct interaction by tourists.
DOT is part of the technical working group created by Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia that will institutionalize guidelines to ensure this tourism opportunity remains a boon to the community.
The DOT is recommending the conduct of a study that will look into Oslob’s marine ecosystem and the behavior of the whale sharks to determine their seasonality and sustainability of their food supply. In addition, local officials will be invited to an observation visit to Donsol to learn about its best practices in handling whale shark interaction and community organization.
“We target the training programs to be conducted in March, starting with the boatmen. Our other courses of action will ensue once the study points to the sustainability of this product. There is so much to be done to improve the tourism experience. However, other activities need to be developed so that the visitors have more reasons to be in Oslob. The bottomline is that benefits should redound to community development and promotion of a culture of tourism that stresses genuine care and proper management of this newfound resource,” added the tourism chief.