DENR to regulate tourism in El Nido

Recognizing the gravity of problems that have cropped up in one of the world’s top tourist destinations in the country, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced today it will implement policies to help minimize the negative impact of tourism pressure in El Nido, Palawan.

Reports show that El Nido is beset with problems of diminishing water quality, biodiversity loss, flooding, and proliferation of informal settlers, business establishments, and structures without permit, and a host of other problems.

“I want people to experience the beauty of El Nido and other natural wonders of our country for as long as possible,” explains DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu. “That is why 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 Boracy,” he added.
In view of Cimatu’s directive, officials of DENR MIMROPA identified El Nido as a priority area. “We do not want El Nido to face the same problem as Boracay,” expressed DENR MIMAROPA Regional Director Natividad Bernardino.

Bernardino was referring to the mounting garbage problem and water contamination due to unregulated activities in Boracay, which Cimatu, together with the local government, confronted immediately after his assumption as environment Secretary.

Within 20 days in June and July last year, 1,906 tons of garbage was hauled from Boracay to Aklan. Two weeks ago, Cimatu and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo agreed to step up efforts to save Boracay, including penalizing establishments violating environmental and other laws.

Bernardino explains, “we value El Nido’s contribution to the economy of Palawan and of the country, we cannot help, however, but worry that the magnitude of tourist activities in El Nido is already way beyond its carrying capacity.”

According to the 2016 report of the El Nido Municipal Tourism Office, tourist arrival in the town has increased by more than 30 per cent 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 explained that the Protected Area Management Board of El Nido-Taytay Protected Area already passed a resolution that limits tourist entry and activity in three of the most visited places in El Nido.

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 the Strict Protection Zone, areas with high biodiversity value, which shall be closed to human activity except for scientific research and/or ceremonial use by indigenous communities. This includes, among others, Helicopter Island, Balinaud Beach, Turtle Island, and Pacanayan Island.

In the coming months, DENR also 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, validate tenurial instruments of business and residents, and monitor strict observance of environmental laws, and other measures that will help lessen the harmful impact of tourism activities on the environment, people’s livelihood, and tourism itself. 

Bernardino explains that DENR is already working closely with the local government of El Nido and shall conduct public consultations regarding the implementation of new PAMB policies.

“We hope the public understands it is for the long term benefit of everyone if we preserve the natural beauty of El Nido, which is what attracts tourists there in the first place,” Bernardino ended.