Tourism Secretary Cristina Garcia-Frasco is unaware of where the rumors originated regarding the potential closure of Coron and El Nido due to their ongoing water issues.

She said that during her meeting on April 11 with Secretary Benjamin Abalos of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), they did not discuss this matter.

“I don’t know the source of such information, and as far as I am aware, from my meeting with the mayors of Coron and El Nido, together with Sec. Abalos of DILG and Sec. Loyzaga of DENR, ang pinag-usapan namin ay how to collaborate with national and local governments in order to focus on certain things that need fast improvement,” Frasco said in an interview with the media during her visit to Tabon Caves Complex in Quezon town, southern Palawan, on Friday, April 12.

Frasco pointed out that significant issues plaguing El Nido and Coron include the sourcing of water, wastewater, and sewage treatment facilities, as well as the need for a sanitary landfill to prevent hazardous waste seepage into water systems.

She emphasized the necessity for an overall and comprehensive approach to sustainable tourism in Palawan.

“So, yung effort natin is collaborative. Nakikipag-usap tayo sa kanila para makuha natin yung commitment ng ating mayors na bigyan nila ng prayoridad ang quality of tourism in their areas. That starts, of course, with the quality provision of water and the proper treatment of waste,” she explained.

Frasco further emphasized the need for various government agencies to unite, and this is why she also brought in the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), an attached agency of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

She also explained that they are exploring how to collaborate with municipalities to assist in generating interest for public-private partnerships.

Frasco clarified that she was not informed about the closure issue, as the only topic discussed during their meeting was sustainable tourism management.

She stressed that prioritizing sustainable tourism management is essential for addressing the province’s challenges.

“If people will not give proper attention to the sourcing of water, the treatment of waste, and sustainable tourism initiatives, that will lead to the degradation of our tourist destinations. Kaya naman priority talaga ng administration na gumawa tayo ng hakbang so that there will be no closure, and rather a sustainable tourism management sa ating mga destinations,” she said.

Meanwhile, Frasco announced that the DOT is advancing efforts to enhance the country’s tourism industry through the introduction of the Philippine Experience Program (PEP).

She said that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has directed initiatives to bolster the tourism sector, providing Filipinos with opportunities to enhance their livelihoods through partnerships between the national government and local government units in tourism development and promotion.

“We also want the world to know the beauty and culture of the Philippines; that’s why we want to bring our tourists not only to our world-renowned destinations, of which we have many, but also to our emerging and lesser known tourist destinations, such as here in southern Palawan,” she elaborated.

“Through this, we are giving our tourists the opportunity to know our rich culture and the Indigenous People, their traditions, and all the other elements that make Philippine tourism truly a world-class experience,” she added.

Frasco stated that the program is being promoted through a comprehensive approach under the National Tourism Development Plan, where she said President Marcos sees the Philippines as having the “potential to become Asia’s next tourism powerhouse.”

“But we really need to look at the elements of tourism development. And that includes infrastructure. That’s why we are also coordinating with the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) for the construction of additional tourism roads as well as bridges, and the DoTr (Department of Transportation) for improvements, expansions, and the addition of airports and seaports,” she said.

“And, as far as our collaborations are concerned, we are fully focused on ensuring that no destination is left behind in the development of the entire Philippine tourism industry portfolio,” she added.