Luxury and "Eco" Try to Co-Exist at Cacao Pearl's Philippine Resort

Philipppines Eco Resort photo
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Glossy photos (pre-development) from the Cacao Resorts web site.

Every developer worth his or her weight in white beach sand is vying to be able to proclaim his or her resort the first or best or truest eco-resort.

But behind the high-definition tourist brochures, there's no agreement on international standards for declaring a holiday destination or lodging as "eco." Greenwash runs rampant, and by its very nature, development degrades a landscape from what may have been pristine to what can at best hope to be 'less harmful' than what another developer may have done. Cacao Resorts, which is developing the entire Cacao Pearl island in the western Philippine archipelago province of Palawan, promises to be "a whole new eco-take on luxury," and while that may turn out to be true thus far the glossy photos and pretty words don't entirely convince.Green features, but lots of CO2 to get there
On a private, truly pretty island of 124 acres, Cacao Resorts plans to build a spa, restaurant and amenities as well as "chic" homes - it is advertising 60 villas for sale - designed by Antonio Calvo to have zero carbon costs, positive energy flow (presumably to the island's own grid), and a low eco-footprint. What does that mean exactly?

The site, which gives the planned Cacao Pearl homes its highest rating of 5 check marks, considers striving for zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable water use, local and sustainable building materials, and sustainable transport as the main factors to consider in a green home or residence.

Cacao Pearl fares well on all five of these, according to whatgreenhome, with passive cooling (heating isn't required), wind turbines, solar panels and micro hydro on a custom "micro-grid" and carbon offsetting, if required, with Zero Footprint of Canada. To get to no waste, the island will divide efforts between recycling (to where, one wonders) and composting, and reducing incoming packaging with bulk buying. Low flow toilets and taps, personal water usage meters, and gray water systems will help limit water use, and local timber and timber from a managed forest will be used for villa construction. There will be no motorized transport on the island, though eventually electric "jeepneys" are planned. And this is no roughin' it destination: butler service and personal chefs are among the amenities planned, so it's probably not for light of pocketbook.

In addition, 100 percent of the profits from the eco-resort island will go to "environmental protection and social improvements." Other eco-focused resorts already exist in Palawan, including El Nido Lagen and El Nido Miniloc which are both trying "conservation-minded" resorts.

It sounds pretty good, and kudos for the company for operating a resort as a non-profit and committing profits to environmental protection. It may be a great model. However, two nagging thoughts remains: the first is simply the huge carbon footprint of people traveling to and from this and any other remote island. Two, would the island have proved of more lasting value to humankind if allowed to remain undeveloped? Palawan is considered the Philippines' "last ecological frontier" with tracts of tropical rainforest, two UNESCO World Heritage sites and thriving marine wild life. It remains to be seen whether eco-tourism can keep it that way. Via: Cacao Resorts