Freeman Region

Palompon LGU tourism operation of Kalanggaman Island questioned

Miriam Garcia Desacada - The Freeman

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-8 has started to look into the legality of the local government of Palompon town in Leyte in operating the tourism activities on the famous Kalanggaman Island, for half a decade.

The DENR-8 initially said the Palompon LGU "has no authority to run tourism activities since the agreement signed in 2014 only allowed it to 'protect, conserve, and preserve' the island."

Kalanggaman Island, about 115 kilometers east of Tacloban City, is part of Palompon town. It has gained popularity among tourists as an island with powder-white sand and clear waters, with a sandbar that spans both sides of the island.

The number of tourists visiting the island increased from 95,677 in 2016 to 101,312 last year. It can be reached from the mainland of Palompon via a one-hour boat ride.

DENR-8 Regional Director Crizaldy Barcelo, in a letter sent to the Regional Development Council-8 (RDC-8) on Wednesday, said the Palompon LGU “as the operator and developer has no issued tenurial instrument giving them the authority to develop the island much more to sub-lease it to another person or entity.”

Barcelo said the management of small island ecosystem is governed by a special regulation provided under an administrative order issued in 2000.

The DENR-8, after conducting an inventory on the island earlier this year, found that Kalanggaman has 12 concrete structures used as toilets and dressing rooms, 22 cottages of light materials, and a concrete pavilion.

The assessment of Kalanggaman was done by the DENR-8, based on the central office's order last March 1, to check on environmental compliance of establishments in tourist destinations around the country.

Later on, the RDC-8 asked DENR-8 to comment on the proposal asking LGUs with tourism sites in Eastern Visayas to replicate the practices of Palompon LGU, but the DENR-8 reported instead its findings over Palompon's alleged "unauthorized" operation of Kalanggaman.

Raoul Bacalla, head of the Palompon municipal environment and natural resources office, said they were shocked to receive the letter from the DENR-8 informing them to legitimatize their tourism operations of Kalanggaman.

“The local government has been operating on the concept of co-management agreement signed with the DENR in 2014. The main purpose is to conserve the island. We are using tourism approach as a tool for nature conservation. We are so particular on how we do tourism activities on the island. We are so particular with protocols,” Bacalla told RDC members during a meeting here Wednesday.

Bacalla said LGU and DENR officials will meet soon to settle this issue and comply all requirements.

Meanwhile, DOT-8 Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes said her office has been concerned with the issue considering that Kalanggaman is the region’s most visited destination. Palompon LGU had also received the Best Tourism-Oriented Local Government Pearl Award from 2014 to 2017. (FREEMAN)

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