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MELISSA GRACE DIZON-DULALIA, MBA, a tourism advocate and Secretary General of two (2) nationwide organizations, the Tourism Educators and Movers (TEAM) Philippines and the League of Tourism Students of the Philippines (LTSP) was sent to Israel for a 3-week scholarship program for an International Training on Leveraging Urban Nature and Biodiversity for Local Development from November 28 to December 22, 2011. Said program is under MASHAV, Israels Agency for International Development Cooperation in partnership with their Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in cooperation with the Weitz Center for Development Studies and the Embassy of Israel in Manila. Lectures were conducted on environmental issues, ecotourism, waste management, sustainability, community partnership, and urban nature planning and development by top representatives from Israeli corporations and nongoverntmental institutions such as MEKOROT Israel National Water Co., GREENTECH, ARROWECOLOGY, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), Ministry of Interior, Qidron Vally Water Basin Authority, Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB) and other stakeholders. There were also courtesy visits and roundtable discussions with the deputy Vice Mayor of Rehovot and deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur of the City of Jerusalem integrating the community as part of urban planning and environmental conservation. Visits to other nearby towns including community parks, botanical gardens and natural parks to bibilical, archeologic and historical sites are also part of the said program. Mel was the only Filipino delegate chosen to represent the Philippines together with 28 delegates from different countries: Bhutan, Cameroon, Ethopia, India, Kenya, Kosove, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Russia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Thailand and Uganda. According to Mel Dizon, We only have one world, one Philippines, one Manila to share with everybody specially to our future generations. The challenge is to help create awareness for the public to support, protect and conserve our environment sustainably through implentation of urban biodiversity community projects on grassroots level. This can be achieved though a collaborative and strong partnership between the government, educational and private sector. Mel Dizon also calls for the encouragement and support of everyone in revisiting daily operational activities and making it green and to partner with different organizations working towards a greener urban environment. In terms of tourism, Mel Dizon also says that, It is impressive that Israel was able to integrate a sustainable urban biodiversity program in tourist-related industries and activities. Mel also believes that Israel is such a diverse destination that is also ideal for health and wellness, ecotourism and biodiversity which is beyond the usual religious pilgrimages. Mel Dizon is the Senior Vice President of the E.T. DIZON Travel Corporation, a multi-awarded travel agency since 1965 and a Senior Lecturer of Miriam College under the Philippines first Leisure and Tourism Management (LTM) Program.

Melissa Grace Dizon-Dulalia

Rehovot, Israel

16 December 2011