Pico de Loro Freia: Responsible tourismBoracay and other troubled local beach destinations can learn a thing or two from Pico de Loro’s sustainability programs
Several weeks ago now, the government ordered the shutdown of popular island destination, Boracay, due to the harmful environmental impact of irresponsible tourism. It’s closed to tourists for the next six months and the local and national governments are scrambling to fix business owners’ negligence and even their own.
Fortunately, there are local tourism destinations that operate based on sustainable practices. Most of these responsible tourism areas are privately owned. SM Prime’s Hamilo Coast is one such example. Located in Nasugbu, Batangas, it’s a “premier sustainable coastal resort town” real estate development. It covers more than 6,000 hectares of land that consists of lush mountains and pristine coastline. Its maiden development is Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club that covers only 40 hectares at Hamilo Coast.
The property has four clusters of residential condominium buildings, a hotel, a beach and country club, and a chapel. The condominium units (984 in total) serve as second homes to Manila residents who would like to escape the city on the weekends. That’s a significant number of people that create environmental impact, especially considering the number of unit owners and their families, members and their guests, the staff, among others.
Surprisingly, the impact to the environment is much less than most resorts and small towns. That’s because in 2007, Pico de Loro partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to help with its sustainable programs. It was important for the developers to protect Hamilo and its coasts because it’s situated at one of the country’s most important ecological locations. And this property has a bronze benchmark from Earth Check, a third party environmental sustainability auditor.
“What’s unique with Hamilo Coast is it’s at the apex of the Verde island passage, which is the center of the coral triangle, which is the center of the marine biodiversity. This means that this is the heart of the center of marine biodiversity,” explains Hamilo Coast’s sustainability head Wes Caballa.
“SM as a developer is not an expert yet in sustainable development. That’s why we partnered with WWF. At first, the president of Hamilo Coast, Elizabeth Sy only wanted to have coastal resource management as a program. She wanted to protect the coastal waters of Hamilo Coast and be free of human abuse. As our partnership with WWF progressed, however, this program has expanded into three: ridge to reef management, waste management, and renewable energy research,” he adds.
According to Wes, when SM Prime purchased Hamilo Coast, the area was in a dire state. There was illegal logging and some of the reefs were destroyed due to illegal ways of fishing.
“Before SM came to Hamilo, all of the mountains here are deluded and already at the secondary growth forest. They were abused from illegal logging because the residents use them for building their homes and for charcoal. There was no more forest cover,” he says.
One of the first things the new owners did was to plant trees. So far the company has planted 20,000 native trees. The largest mangrove forest in Batangas can be found in Hamilo. The company has likewise planted about 10,000 mangroves with a 75 percent success rate.
The tree planting activities is part of its ridge to reef program.
“Hamilo Coast is a perfect example of a ridge to reef system. It’s surrounded by mountains in the east, and the West Philippine Sea to the west. The mountains affect the coastal waters, That’s why our program is to preserve the environment from ridge to reef. Hamilo is very rich in flora and fauna. At Pico de Loro alone, we have recorded a number of species of flora and fauna—47 trees, 95 birds, three bats, three rodents, three large mammals, four amphibians, and seven reptiles. That’s within the 40 hectares. Some of the birds you can find here, most of which are endemic to the Philippines, brown crested kingfisher, Philippine serpent eagle,” Wes explains.
Hamilo has 13 coves and three of those coves are marine protected areas—Pico de Loro, Santelmo, and Etayo coves. Every month the company has a team that checks the reef systems in these areas, which are rich with marine life. They check for bleaching, coral damages, and parasites like the crown of thorns starfish, an invasive species known to eat corals. Some of the coves are also nesting grounds for sea turtles and all the staff are trained how to handle and protect turtles laying eggs and hatching period.
“This Pico beach is a natural nesting ground for turtles. This means that the natural ecosystem here is not disturbed yet. So far we have recorded three species here among the five species marine turtles found in the Philippines like the green turtle and hawskbill,” he says.
INVOLVING THE COMMUNITY
The property, first and foremost, is a place where members and residents can relax and enjoy the beach. That’s why they make sure that the Pico community enjoys the experience every single time. The country club alone offers several sports activities from basketball to squash to badminton. It also has a gameroom that has a bowling alley and billiard tables.
Water activities include motorized water sports like jet skis. Guests can also schedule a tour of the different coves of Hamilo and also a day tour of Santelmo cove, which has a private beach and crystal clear waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
While the residents and members enjoy the fun activities the estate has to offer, the management makes sure that they are informed about sustainable practices. For instance, solid waste management is important to the property. Pico de Loro teaches residents how to segregate waste and how it composts its biodegradable waste.
“WWF developed our waste management program. With this program we were able to identify and get data of the waste we use. So far the biggest is the biodegradable waste, which stands at 94 percent, including food waste. Then, there’s five percent recyclables and one percent residual, which includes hazardous waste like engine oil from vehicles,” Wes says. “We’re targeting zero waste to landfill. That’s what we’re trying to do. We do have vermicomposting on site. As of now we are composting 60 percent of our biodegradable waste. We also have five sewage treatment plants here. We are saving 70,000 cubic meters of potable water every year just by using recycled water in our irrigation.”
Around 90 percent of Pico de Loro’s staffmembers are from the surrounding community. Further helping the community outside the property, the company also collects the waste of the nearby fishing village, Barangay Papaya.
Pico de Loro is adding a new luxury residential building in the property. Called Freia (after an endemic species of bird of the same name), it’s a 223-unit building featuring the best views of the sea and the mountains.
“Freia at Pico de Loro is our prime view beach homes. It’s a cluster of premium two-bedroom units, topped off by nine three-bedroom penthouses. You get the best of both worlds. You want something a little bit more serene and tranquil, pick a seaside view and overlooking the West Philippine Sea. You want more subdued and more greens and you can have the view of the Pico mountain range. We give the best of the prime views at Freia,” says SM Prime senior assistant vice president for sales Alexis Ortiga.
The new development is just a few minutes’ walk to the beach. It will have its own pool and gardens, making it the most exclusive condominium in the property. When finished, each unit will come with a set of basic appliances.
“Freia features superior units and stunning scenery. The beach is only a five-minute stroll away. When we planned the units, we made sure every bedroom, every living space, overlooks whatever view you bought. We’ve got a 63:37 percent glass to concrete ratio. Basically what you see here is floor-to-ceiling glass,” he says.
The building would also be sustainable, from solar panels energy source to natural ventilation.
“We do have natural lighting and ventilation. Unlike in city condos where they need to aircondition hallways, we have airways that natural air can pass through. We’ll also install solar panels on the roof, which will power the common area lighting. Finally, we do have waste management also. We have recycling, waste segregation, and rain water harvesting. We’ll have a giant water tank underneath Freia, which will collect all the rainwater to use for irrigation and sewer treatment plant,” Alexis explains.
Know more about Freia at Pico de Loro in Hamilo Coast: