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#SeatizenSunday: Jamie Dichaves, Lio Eco-tourism Estate

After Jamie Dichaves graduated college with a degree in BS Psychology, she didn’t quite know what she wanted to do. But she knew what she didn’t want to do, which was to work in an office. She applied for different types of companies here and abroad, and as luck would have it, she was offered the position of Environmental Officer (EO) of El Nido Resorts’ Environment Department. Jamie spent the next two years working in Lagen and Apulit, and sometimes Miniloc Island.

In early 2014, Jamie resigned with the thought of coming back. She spent the following year helping various clubs and NGO – she did pro-bono consulting for Danjugan to help with their nature tourism program, became an active member of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, and headed the Pawikan Watchers program of Save Philippine Seas.

The call of El Nido persisted. In May 2015, she moved back to El Nido, returned as the EO of Lagen Island, and transferred to Lio prior to opening in 2016. Now she works as the Sustainability and Pollution Control Officer of Lio Eco-tourism Estate.

Tell us about your current work.

My role is focused on the estate development and operations, which means interfacing with contractors, ensuring due diligence is strictly adhered to, and setting up environmental policies for various phases of the project. A typical work week includes updating Estate consumption values for energy, water, and waste; meeting with Activities and Waste Management departments which I am directly in charge of; and the Be GREEN (Guard, Respect, Educate El Nido) orientation for merchants, contractors, or staff, each of whom has a customized module. I am also in charge of the marine turtle database for El Nido and keep an eye out for potential turtle conservation partners in the area.

What are the best and worst parts about your job?

The best part of my job is that I am in a position that can influence behavioral changes in a wide scale. The policies and guidelines I come up with are not just restricted to being implemented to those directly hired by the company, but also to businesses that operate or are planning to operate here. This ranges from an airline, to restaurants, shops, hotels, construction companies, and other contracted service providers. This also means that all those part of their supply and operations chain are inevitably influenced.

Case in point: prior to the plastics ban in El Nido, we have implemented a ban on plastics in the Estate. Since opening, none of the operating units use plastic/polystyrene. There is even a ban on balloons, glitter, confetti, and similar decors for events. Even construction workers bring their own reusable containers and utensils when buying food.

The worst part of my job would probably be that the role is unique, making it challenging to navigate. The practice is also new to most people I come across, so it takes time to change perspectives and attitudes. To overcome this, I swallow a lot of Patience Pills (laughs). But seriously, I always push for constant open communication with everyone. So I text, call, email, drop by, set meetings… It’s really all talk talk talk. I admit when I am not adept at certain topics, and always ask that we work on improvements together. The issues we meet are, more often than not, universal and best resolved through partnerships and joint efforts.

What can people do to help your cause?

Be a responsible tourist! People have to realize that the initial drive for them to visit a site is the fact that it is beautiful, and that this can be easily destroyed by carelessness – stepping on a coral, writing on cliffs or trees, leaving even the tiniest trash. People, especially travelers, need to be always mindful of their impact.

Jamie birdwatching

What 3 pointers would you provide for people who'd like to start seriously pursuing an environmental lifestyle?

Since I am in the tourism industry, here are travel-related pointers:

Go for low-impact activities that do not involve stressing wildlife. This means no to tours that let you touch or ride animals, or places that allow you to scream at the top of your lungs.

Bring a reusable water bottle when you travel. Airlines allow you to bring them along so long as there is nothing inside. Most establishments provide free water, and refilling stations are quite cheap! This way, you also ensure that you’re always hydrated, wherever you go.

Use your voice. Commend establishments that have green practices through guest comment cards, TripAdvisor, or any other channel. For those you feel could improve what they’re doing, talk to their management or leave suggestions. Those who truly want to go green will definitely appreciate it.

Fun fact about the environment that you think people should know.

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that some trees “sleep” by closing their leaves, or turning them face-down to keep from drying at night!

Follow Jamie on Instagram @jamieseeswhat. Learn more about Lio here.

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