Sat. Dec 7th, 2019

El Nido has breached its “carrying capacity” – DENR

The tourist town of El Nido, the province of Palawan’s most popular nature destination, has already reached its limit of accommodating a large volume of visitors without harming its natural environment, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

This observation prompted DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu last week to identify El Nido as a “priority area of concern”, as he instructed all its departments to address issues that pertain to water and air pollution, and solid waste management.

“I want people to experience the beauty of El Nido and other natural wonders of our country for as long as possible,” DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said in a statement released this week.

DENR MIMAROPA Regional Director Natividad Bernardino said they are concerned that with the influx of tourism in El Nido, the town has already exceeded its “carrying capacity”.

“We cannot help, however, but worry that the magnitude of tourist activities in El Nido is already way beyond its carrying capacity,” Bernardino said.

According to the 2016 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 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.

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 a permit, and a host of other problems.

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, the DENR said it will conduct an 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 said the 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 said.

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