In the Philippines – during our post-independence period since 1946 – “industrialization” was the focus of “development.” Subsequently, “rural development” that pursued economic growth in the countryside with social equity became the byword. By the 1980s, the notion that “development” could only start from below – from the people themselves – became the conventional wisdom.
Starting in the 1990s, however, new dimensions of “development” emerged. “Environmentalists” began to warn of the adverse effects of environmental abuse on the health and lives of individuals – and even on the survival of communities.
Governments and peoples became aware of the ill-effects of the denudation of forests; loss of biodiversity; degradation of coastal and marine habitats; silting-up of rivers; warming up of oceans; destruction of coral reefs; wasteful habits of people, etc. All along, most Filipinos had accepted that air pollution, clogged waterways, and degraded lands were the unavoidable price of progress.
THIS NEW AWARENESS SET OFF A RADICAL CHANGE IN PEOPLE’S MINDSET. IT GAVE RISE TO THE CONCEPT OF “SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT,” WHICH IS “DEVELOPMENT THAT MEETS THE NEEDS OF THE PRESENT GENERATION WITHOUT COMPROMISING THE ABILITY OF FUTURE GENERATIONS TO MEET THEIR OWN NEEDS.”
TO IMPLEMENT THE MANDATE OF “EARTH AGENDA 21,” ARISING FROM THE RIO SUMMIT OF THE U.N. IN JUNE, 1992, THE FVR ADMINISTRATION ESTABLISHED THE PHILIPPINE COUNCIL FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (PCSD) IN SEPTEMBER, 1992 – AND PROMULGATED THE PHILIPPINE AGENDA 21 (PA-21), WHICH DEFINED “SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” AS THE “HARMONIOUS INTEGRATION OF A SOUND AND VIABLE ECONOMY, RESPONSIVE GOVERNANCE, SOCIAL COHESION, AND ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY TO ENSURE THAT DEVELOPMENT BECOMES A LIFE-ENHANCING PROCESS.” THIS LANDMARK POLICY PLUS ACTION PLANS FOR IMPLEMENTATION HAPPENED WITHIN P. FVR’S FIRST 100 DAYS.
Meanwhile, the globalization of trade was forcing our policy-makers to focus the economy on industries and services which provided the best comparative advantages. And, given the Philippine archipelago’s natural endowments of sun, seas, mountains, forests, and beaches, our policy-makers decided on tourism as our primary competitive advantage.
Beyond these God-given endowments, Filipinos have a rich cultural heritage. There is considerable variety in our arts, crafts, music, dance, cuisine and traditions; the Filipino way of life, in fact, constitutes a unique mix of the ethnic, the cosmopolitan and the functional.
FILIPINOS THEMSELVES – BECAUSE OF THEIR INNATE HOSPITALITY, THEIR NATURAL WARMTH, THEIR CHEERFULNESS, THEIR INSTINCTIVE FRIENDLINESS – ARE PHILIPPINE TOURISM’S MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE.
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