Miag-ao town in Iloilo, home of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova, has emphasized the importance of community involvement in the preservation of the tourism site.
Macario Napulan, municipal mayor of Miag-ao, said that the UNESCO Heritage site has an “outstanding universal value” and therefore needs to be “protected and preserved”.
Napulan has represented the municipality in the 15th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) at Krakow, Poland on June 2 – 5.
“All cities and towns in the world with UNESCO World Heritage can be members of the OWHC. Miag-ao, along with Vigan, had been an active member of “good standing”, he said.
The congress revolved on the effects of tourism in world heritage sites to prevent these sites from over-tourism, he said.
The panel discussions in the congress came up with recommendations on tourism and heritage. On top of it is the involvement of the community, he said.
“Most of the time, the community is left out and only the big businesses take over,” he noted.
The inclusion of the community has already been in place in Miaga-ao.
Aside from the Tourism Council, the municipality has already established the Heritage and Tourism Council of Miag-ao which mainly oversees the tourism, protection, and preservation of the Site Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova.
After the OWHC congress, Napulan is eyeing to add its effort on heritage and tourism by gathering the members of the town’s Heritage and Tourism Council.
“We will expand the membership and involve the tricycle drivers, ambulant vendors, among others, for them to also participate,” he said.
The involvement of the youth in the preservation of the site is also important, Napulan said, as the “youth helps in the innovation of the site and therefore they should be conscious of the importance of the heritage,” he said.
Also, one of the ways to preserve heritage sites is expanding tourism in the whole municipality.
By this, Napulan said other tourism sites in town such as the “Hablon” weaving in Indag-an village, Tinagong dagat in Ongyod village, and pottery-making in Cagbang village, among others, should also be packaged and promoted.
Miag-ao has been a member of the OWHC since 2014, he noted.
Fifteen cities and towns from Korea; three each from Indonesia and Sri Lanka; two from China; and one each from Fiji, Laos, Malaysia, and Vietnam are members of OWHC in the Asia and the Pacific Region with “good standing.” (PNA)
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