Barangay Buena Suerte in Bacuit Bay, El Nido. (Photo by CARFormoso/File photo)

Environment secretary Roy Cimatu said on Thursday only selected beaches in El Nido that are determined to be unsafe for swimming will be closed to tourists for most of August while their rehabilitation is taking place.

Cimatu identified the affected areas as the beaches fronting Barangays Masagana, Buena Suerte, Corong-Corong and Maligaya.

“It is because of the [poor] quality of the water in the swimming areas in these beaches. That is the reason we will be closing it for swimming,” Cimatu told Palawan News in a phone interview.

He said the decision was reached Thursday morning following a meeting with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Tourism (DoT) that comprise the Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Task Force (IACTF) of El Nido.

No barangay closure

Cimatu clarified that no barangay will be entirely closed to tourists, only the affected beaches. In July, interior secretary Eduardo Año sought the closure of four El Nido barangays due to the presence of high levels of coliform on their beaches.

Cimatu said the task force’s decision is intended to help sustain El Nido’s tourism sector.

“El Nido is one of the best destinations sa Palawan. Kailangan masustain ang tourism diyan. Ito naman ang aming pakay dito is to help the local leadership,” he said.

“We just want to make sure na they are compliant with the established regulations and also with their ordinances that support the tourism industry,” he added.

He also said their decision is meant to ensure that El Nido will not have to deal with similar problems like Boracay had which resulted to its total closure.

“We would like as much as possible na hindi matulad like for example ng nangyari sa Boracay na napabayaan,” he said.

Cimatu said the “swim ban” should not greatly affect the tourism industry of El Nido because establishments such as inns, hotels, and restaurants along these beaches will still be allowed to accept guests and customers.

Monitoring period

Cimatu explained that IACTF will be conducting a 20-day intensified monitoring and inspection in the town to specifically determine the areas that will be banned for swimming. This, he said, will be from August 5 to 25.

“The tourists and visitors will know the areas where swimming are prohibited because the IACTF will make sure that the proper signages will be placed in the beaches with high coliform level starting August 1,” he said.

He said establishment owners may route their guests to other beach areas where swimming is allowed.

He added these 20-day investigation and inspection will not only focus on checking coliform levels but will also make sure that all the tourist establishments will be compliant with environmental regulations.

Cimatu said he may visit El Nido by August 25.

“In 20 days they will be giving us the result of their inspection and investigation. Hindi lang ito about not swimming… other parameters of compliance will also be inspected like building permits, business permits, tourism accreditation, iche-check lahat ito,” he said.