DENR regulating El Nido tourist influx

(The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to implement policies and regulations in El Nido as part of efforts to minimize the negative impacts of tourism in one of the country’s top destinations.

The DENR has identified El Nido as a priority area after reports showed that the Palawan island is facing problems of diminishing water quality, biodiversity loss, flooding, and proliferation of informal settlers, business establishments, and structures without permit, among others.

“I have instructed all personnel of the department to address such priorities as clean water, clean air and solid waste management – issues that are even more pressing for island tourist destinations like El Nido and Boracay,” Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said.

The DENR-Mimaropa said the Protected Area Management Board of El Nido-Taytay Protected Area passed a resolution that limits tourist entry and activity in three of the most visited places in El Nido.

“We value El Nido’s contribution to the economy of Palawan and of the country but we also worry that the magnitude of tourist activities in El Nido is already way beyond its carrying capacity,” DENR-Mimaropa regional director Natividad Bernardino said.

In the Big Lagoon, only 60 guests will be allowed at any one time or a maximum of 720 guests per day. In the Small Lagoon, a maximum of 30 guests will be allowed at any one time or a total of 360 persons per day. For the Secret Beach, only 12 visitors will be allowed at any one time or a total of 144 a day.

Limits on the number of conveyances have also been set – maximum of five boats in the anchorage area and 30 kayaks inside the Big Lagoon, only 15 kayaks inside the Small Lagoon, and two boats in the anchorage area of Secret Beach.

Moreover, activities such as fishing, cliff jumping, grilling of food, and playing of loud music have been prohibited in the three spots.

In another resolution, PAMB identified Helicopter Island, Balinaud Beach, Turtle Island and Pacanayan Island as research and ceremonial use by indigenous communities.

In the next few months, the DENR plans to conduct inspection of all establishments in El Nido and ensure compliance on the disposal of solid and liquid wastes, monitor air and water quality, and validate tenurial instruments of business and residents.

Bernardino said the agency is already working closely with the local government of El Nido for the conduct of public consultations regarding the implementation of new PAMB policies.

According to the report of the El Nido Municipal Tourism Office, tourist arrival in the town has increased by more than 30 percent annually in the last three years with last year reaching almost 200,000.

“This does not only mean increased revenue for the town but also increased demand for fresh water, timber, and other construction materials, use of fuel and consumer goods, and activities in the islands, all of which exert tremendous pressure on the rich biodiversity of El Nido,” Bernardino said.

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