Through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, Canada has been at the forefront of encouraging economic sustainability based on the preservation, rather than exploitation, of the precious cultural and natural assets in Batanes, the Philippines’ northernmost province.
Closer to Taiwan than Manila, the province of Batanes is composed of eleven islands, of which three are inhabited. Only in the last decade have electricity and telephones been introduced to the islands, which are home to the Ivatan people, renowned for their rich culture and ancestry shared with the indigenous people of the southern islands of Taiwan. The Ivatan are an agricultural people, though they are also accomplished seafarers and boat-builders.
Characterized by breathtaking scenery, the lighthouses and rocky hills make Batanes oddly reminiscent of Canada’s Newfoundland. It features stone houses with thatched roofs designed to withstand the harsh elements and, yes, even cold weather. The weather in the province of Batanes is truly unique in the tropical Philippines, much like its people.
The Batanes provincial government is currently bidding to have all eleven islands inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This achievement would, in the view of the local proponents, generate significant support to pursue local economic development and tourism, while balancing environmental and social considerations.
Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Christopher Thornley, recently led a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) follow-up mission to Batanes.
Ambassador Thornley and the CIDA team saw firsthand the eco-tourism potential of the province, and were impressed by the vision and accomplishments of local community leaders who demonstrated a profound commitment to sustainably develop the cultural and natural heritage of Batanes.
"The challenge will be to realize enough economic prosperity for all without jeopardizing sustainability principles and damaging Batanes’ breathtaking natural beauty," Ambassador Thornley noted after meeting with the provincial governor – Vicente Gato – and other local leaders.
Canada looks forward to continuing its support to Batanes in its quest to preserve natural and cultural assets, and sustainably develop an undiscovered treasure in the Pacific.
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