The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Region 1 (DENR-1), headed by the Regional Executive Director Atty. Crizaldy M. Barcelo concluded its role as the Regional Ecotourism Committee (REC) chair and turned over the chairmanship to the Department of Tourism – Region 1 (DOT-1), led by Regional Director Joseph Francisco “Jeff” R. Ortega. DOT-1 will be the REC chair from AY 2021-2023.

The blended ceremonial turnover held on September 06, 2021 at the DENR-1 Building, Sevilla, City of San Fernando, La Union was attended via online conference by the members of the committee from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-1), Department of Interior Local Government (DILG-1), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI-1), Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), and University of Northern Philippines (UNP). Also virtually present from the DENR field offices were the Provincial and Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers, together with the Protected Area Superintendents of the different Protected Areas (PAs) in the region.  

The REC was created by virtue of Executive Order No. 111 issued on June 17, 1999, which established the guidelines for ecotourism development in the Philippines. Sharing the responsibilities of steering the committee towards the implementation of the national ecotourism strategy, DENR-1 and DOT-1 take turn on the chairmanship every three years.

With the passing of the chairmanship to DOT-1, RED Barcelo looks forward to the windows of opportunities DOT-1 can offer to the stakeholders of the fifteen (15) PAs in the region to which the Regional Executive Director take great pride because of the true concepts of ecological tourism, nature tourism, cultural and adventure tourism they offer. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has pose economic burden to the stakeholders relying on the tourism activities within the PAs. However, RED Barcelo is confident that through the leadership of the incoming REC chairperson, Director Ortega, and strong partnership with other members of the committee, ecotourism will bounce back and provide sustenance to stakeholders’ livelihood once again.

As the new REC chairperson, Director Ortega hopes that with his energy and passion to tourism, he can give a new direction in stewarding the committee towards sustainable tourism by offering new strategies while still carrying the mission of environmental protection for future generations to come. Director Ortega shares the strategy of the department to rebuild tourism that has been hardly hit by the pandemic through the development of nature-based products and services and promotion of local ecotourism.

Opening a new path, REC will continue setting the bar for the ecotourism industry to flourish amidst changing time and interest without compromising the environment.