The Environment Department’s 2012 year-end report

This past year has certainly been an eventful one for the Environment Department, with the launching of new projects and experiences, older projects and events running for the nth year in a row, and new team members joining our family. El Nido Resorts even got shortlisted for a responsible tourism award!

Launching of the Environment website
The website you’re seeing now is the product of years of wishing, brainstorming, and planning. Our guests constantly remarked that it was such a shame that most people don’t know about our responsible tourism efforts, as they only found out when they arrived in the resorts and attended a Green Hour event. Because of this, we decided to set up a place that could serve as a one-stop shop for everything you wanted to know (and perhaps some things you didn’t?) about the Environment Department. Take a look around and let us know what you think about our online home 🙂

Nature Interpretation classes for all staff members
Attending nature interpretation classes comes with being a member of the Guest Activities and Marine Sports (GAMS) department. But what about if you’re a housekeeper, waiter, baker, or Front Desk clerk? This year, we set up weekly nature interpretation classes that any staff member can attend. Compared to the full nature interpretation course that tackles everything and anything about El Nido’s plants and animals and is held over four full days, the general class focuses on one topic per month, with the same topic discussed for one hour every week of that month. Since the same class is repeated four times, the staff have more opportunities to attend. Our top-scoring students include a waiter, a massage therapist, and a registered nurse.

Accompany Bobbit Suntay, underwater videographer
The EOs accompanied underwater videographer Mr. Robert “Bobbit” Suntay during his dives and topside tours of Bacuit Bay, El Nido and Taytay Bay, Taytay. He stayed at MIR, LIR, and AIR, went diving, visited the Big and Small Lagoons, and even dropped by our World Ocean Day and Family Day celebrations! The end result? Stunning memories of our favorite places.

Magical Miniloc from Robert Suntay on Vimeo.

If that doesn’t get you to visit El Nido, we don’t know what will.

Spreading the Be GREEN message in El Nido’s schools
While instilling love for the environment can be done at any age, there’s just something special about a child’s wide-eyed wonder and exclamation of “Ooohhhh” whenever you show an animal doing something cool. We’ve given the Be GREEN (Guard, Respect, Educate El Nido) environmental practices seminar to hundreds of staff since we started in 2007, but this year marked our first chance to bring it to the littlelest members of El Nido’s community. Our students included Grade 5 students from El Nido Central School, high school students of Potter’s Place School, 2nd year students from El Nido National High School, and Grade 4 students from Brgy. Villa Libertad Elementary School. One hundred sixty students listened to our talk, signed their Be GREEN Pledge, and played fun games with us. Not bad for our first year.

EO Mavic introducing Palawan
EO Mavic introducing Palawan

WARTA finalist under “Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator”
We do what we do because it’s the right thing to do, not to win awards. But we must admit that winning a responsible tourism award makes us feel all fuzzy inside because 1) it’s affirmation that we’re doing good work and we’re on the right track, and 2) it gives us exposure in the media. One responsible travel company is good, but many companies learning from the experiences of one and adapting our strategies to fit their needs is absolutely excellent. This year, we were so honored to be a finalist for the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award (WARTA) under the category “Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Operator”. El Nido Resorts won this award in 2009 (Mid-size to Small Accommodation Operators category) and was also a finalist in 2008 (Luxury and Boutique Resort category).

WARTA 2012 finalist logo

International Coastal Cleanup 2012
El Nido Resorts participates annually in the International Coastal Cleanup but this year marked the first time we’ve held a joint event with other members of the El Nido community. Aside from the beach and underwater cleanups joined by volunteer staff members from Miniloc, Lagen, and Apulit, we also organized a cleanup event with the students and teachers of Potter’s Place School (a private primary and secondary school in El Nido) and with members of Ten Knots Philippines (the landholding company of the Ten Knots Group). Jake of TKP spent part of his birthday with us! After collecting 400 kg of trash in the morning, the hardworking volunteers were treated to good food and games (with prizes!) and received a small souvenir to thank them for their efforts.

Potter's Place School students and teachers
Potter’s Place School students and teachers, TKP staff, and the Environment Department

EOs getting down and dirty in the MRF and TKP organic farm and visiting the women weavers of Sibaltan
The Environmental Officers have visited the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and organic farm run by TKP several times but this year marked their first time to spend an entire day there and learn the ropes from the masters. This was also their first time to spend the day with the women who weave the complimentary buri bags for the resorts. At the MRF, they hauled and segregated both biodegradable and nonbiodegradable waste, shoveled the food waste into the composting pen, fed the garden waste to a shredder, carbonized rice hulls, prepared the compost mix, and sifted and bagged the mature compost. At the farm, they harvested grown lettuce, planted lettuce sprouts, prepared potting bags and planted string beans in the bags, planted tomatoes, and mucked out pig stalls. The weavers taught the EOs the basics of bag weaving – from weaving the actual bag to attaching the handles. The EOs ended up dirty, sweaty, and smelly but all the richer for it.

EOs Kring and Mavic help bring in the previous day's trash into the MRF.
EOs Kring and Mavic help bring in the previous day’s trash into the MRF.
24 environment dept group photo
Come hang out with us! From L-R: Mesach, Macy, Kring, Jamie, Mavic, and Rey.

Green Fins certification for MIR, LIR, and AIR
Third-party certification is useful for us because they allow us to validate our own in-house training programs and provide benchmarks for further improvements. This year, Miniloc, Lagen, and Apulit Island Resorts received their Green Fins certification as resorts that adhere to the 15-point Green Fins Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct aims to reduce the impacts of snorkel and dive operators and their guests on the coral reef ecosystem through proper guiding and education. Certification entailed training for the guides, dive crew, and guest activity coordinators on proper snorkeling and diving technique, followed by the assessors experiencing the tours themselves to look for possible points for improvement. Pangulasian Island Resort (PIR) has not yet been certified as the assessors were not able to join the PIR tours. Target date for PIR certification is early 2013.

El Nido Resorts guides, dive crew, GACs, and boat crew during the Green Fins training.
El Nido Resorts guides, dive crew, GACs, and boat crew during the Green Fins training.

New team members
The Environment Department welcomed two new members this year: Jamie Dichaves (Lagen Island Resort Environmental Officer) and Kitsie Torres (Pangulasian Island Resort Environmental Officer). Jamie came to us fresh out of the Psychology program in the University of the Philippines-Diliman while Kitsie is a licensed veterinarian who’s also worked as a veterinary surgical nurse. We love them already and we hope you guys will too.

L-R: Mavic, Mariglo, and our new team members: Jamie (Lagen) and Kitsie (Pangulasian)
L-R: Mavic, Mariglo, and our new team members: Jamie (Lagen) and Kitsie (Pangulasian)

Earth Hour
Earth Hour is an annual event where people all over the world turn off their lights for one hour to increase awareness for global warming and climate change. MIR, LIR, and AIR joined the rest of the world by turning off our generators and using the fuel savings to fund our environmental education projects. Our idea of the perfect evening is dinner on the beach, acoustic music, and saving the world.

Earth Hour at Lagen Island Resort
Earth Hour at Lagen Island Resort

Earth Day
This year marked the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day – an international event that raises awareness and appreciation for our planet’s environment. Our 111 guests and staff volunteers picked up 514.8 kilograms of trash from the beaches of El Nido and Taytay, while our scuba divers collected more than 25 kilos of trash from the ocean floor. The day ended with cocktails and pica-pica as the EOs talked about how tourists and tourism can play a role in conserving the environment.

The SCUBA Rangers are off to save the day!
The Earth Day SCUBA Rangers are off to save the day!

World Oceans Day
Combine coastal and underwater cleanups, food, beach games, kayak races, swimming races, beach water polo, and film showings and you’ve got a taste of our World Oceans Day 2012 celebrations. Seventy-four staff and one guest cleaned up seven beaches and two reefs in El Nido and Taytay, with a total haul of 642.5 kg of trash. Not bad for one day’s work.

Weighing the bounty. Whing from MIR Accounting checks if the scale is correct.
Weighing the bounty. Whing from MIR Accounting checks if the scale is correct.

World Responsible Tourism Day
Aside from joining coastal and underwater cleanups, our amazing volunteers toured our Materials Recovery Facility and learned more about what it takes to be a sustainable business.

Guests assisted in the segregation and toured the MRF
Guests assisted in the segregation and toured the MRF

Used oil hauling
We again donated our used oil to the ABS-CBN Foundation Bantay Kalikasan, this time to the tune of 31,840 liters of used cooking and engine oil. The used oil will be treated to remove dirt, water, and other impurities and the resulting recycled (and clean!) oil will be sold. The proceeds from the sale of the recycled oil will go towards Bantay Kalikasan’s environmental programs, including the continued reforestation of the La Mesa Watershed.

Sticking over 1,000 sticker labels to the plastic jugs. It was hard work!
Sticking over 1,000 sticker labels to the plastic jugs. It was hard work!

Nature Interpretation training
Who says learning can’t be fun? We held our annual nature interpretation training for the GAMS department of Miniloc, Lagen, Apulit, and Pangulasian Island Resorts. The first two days consisted of classroom lectures and quizzes on Palawan, El Nido, Taytay, and the various terrestrial and marine flora and fauna found in Northern Palawan. Day 3 was an introduction to nature interpretation and situational role-playing. We had the fun-filled field trip on Day 4, where the guides and activity coordinators visited the activity areas, practiced their nature interpretation skills, and ran and swam around during their ultimate NI scavenger hunt.

Sisid? HOORAY!!! Underwater scavenger hunt is a go!
Sisid? HOORAY!!! Underwater scavenger hunt is a go!

That was our 2012 in a nutshell: lots of work, lots of fun, and lots of learning. Here’s to a greater 2013!

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