, FEBRUARY 23, 2007 (STAR) By Helen Floes - Renowned British botanist David Bellamy said the Philippines could be a model to other countries in balancing the conservation of coral reefs while promoting ecotourism.

In a recent interview with The STAR, Bellamy, who also hosts a popular nature television show in the United Kingdom, said he was amazed by the way Filipinos have exerted efforts to rehabilitate coral reefs as well as restoring the forests.

"More resources would mean more tourists for the Philippines," he said.

Bellamy, who is also president of the British-based organization Coral Cay Conservation (CCC), arrived in the country on Monday for a 10-day visit to witness the progress being done by communities, non-government organizations, local and national government toward the protection and sustainable use of the country’s rich biological resources.

"I have never seen such cooperation," he said. "It is not happening anywhere in the world," adding the Philippines has "amazing communities."

He said more and more Filipinos are seeing the values of these resources, saying they are now trying to do something to restore the things, which "they have destroyed."

He said nature could grow by giving them space to breathe thus asking Filipinos especially fishermen to allow 20 percent of the sea for conservation.

Eighty-percent, Bellamy said, would be enough for fishing, which is the main source of livelihood of Filipinos in coastal provinces.

"This will benefit fishermen, more resources will give them more catches," he noted.

Bellamy said he was lucky to spend some time in the country’s "enchanting" coral reefs, extinct volcanoes, diverse forests, and "most hospitable and friendly people."

"I came to see first hand the success of a number of projects of which I have been privileged to play a part with CCC and her partners over the past three decades," Bellamy said.

"Filipinos are shining examples of how local people across the worlds are stitching their world back into more sustainable working order," he said.

Bellamy also urged the media to report this good news about the Philippines.

Bellamy’s support for the environment conservation began in the early ’90s when he joined CCC founded by another British marine biologist Peter Raines.

In 1994, the CCC, in partnership with the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation started its project in Danjugan Island located in the Sulu Sea off the coast of Negros Occidental, to help protect the threatened forests and coral reefs of the island.

Now, Danjugan is a national marine reserve and wildlife sanctuary and the CCC-PRRCF partnership has been replicating similar successful conservation projects throughout the country, recently in Southern Leyte.

Bellamy also gave a keynote address during the 1st Ecotourism seminar and workshop of the Southern Negros Coastal Development Programme last Saturday.

One of the outputs of the seminar was the agreement forged by Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts and the CCC which aims to boost conservation awareness and appreciation among visitors in the Philippines’ beautiful coral reefs.

Meanwhile, Raines also told The STAR that 90 percent of the country’s coral reefs have been damaged by humans.

However, he said the good thing about the Philippines is that conservation only takes 12 to 18 months compared to 30 to 50 years in other countries because of Filipinos eagerness to become part of the conservation projects which gave them the advantage among other nationalities.

"I am delighted that David Bellamy had this opportunity to witness the wonders of the Philippine environment and the giant strides being taken to protect this global treasure for the future generations," Raines said.

Raines said a total of 3, 500 volunteered in the conservation project in Negros Occidental, most of whom are British.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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