Poverty, Power and Ethics: Slum Tourism in the Philippines

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:22
Oral Presentation
Miguela MENA, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines
Slums in the Philippines are dispersed across the country. These slum areas often have limited access to basic services, no legal land tenure and insecure shelter, usually on the least appealing plots of land. Many Filipino slum dwellers live in areas where they are vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. The increase of slums has long been treated as a common problem of urban areas all over the world. Its increase is considered as a challenge primarily to urban governance. Though global initiatives have been raised to solve the problems associated with slums, particularly to urban planning, the increase of slums also has presented opportunities and threats to the tourism industry.

During the 1980s, the ‘Smokey Mountains’ in the Philippines had become a symbol for urban poverty. In the early 1990s, a tour operator started offering tours to this huge garbage dump, where thousands of people lived and worked. These tours temporarily stopped in 1993 when the dump was closed. Most inhabitants had to move to Payatas, another dump, which collapsed in 2000 in a landslide that buried hundreds of people. Today, there is “Smokey Tours,” which is a project of World Experience Philippines, Corp, a duly registered non-government organization in the Philippines founded by Juliette Kwee. According to the founder, this special tour seeks to raise awareness about social issues, inspire individuals to bring about societal change, and bridge the gap between people from different backgrounds.

Literature suggests that slum tourism has been subjected to various ethical discourses in the international scene. Using secondary data analysis and qualitative research methodology, this paper aims to explore how slum tourism developed in the Philippines and identify the issues related to poverty, power and ethics that emerged due to the promotion of these slum tours.