El Nido town has set a “dry run” on Thursday to control the entry of tourists to its two popular lagoons in an effort to address the problem of overcrowding.
Pablo Cruz, the chief of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in the town and the designated protected area superintendent of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA), said during the dry run, only a maximum of 30 visitors and 15 kayaks will be allowed to enter the Small Lagoon to stay for 1.5 to two hours before the next batch comes in.
For the Big Lagoon, a maximum of 60 visitors and 30 kayaks will be allowed to enter for also the same number of hours, he said.
Cruz said the dispatching of the kayaks for both lagoons will also be “centralized” or under a single authority to avoid confusion.
“Wala ng papayagang tour boats na mag-aangkla malapit sa Small Lagoon kasi maliit nga ang area. Sa Big Lagoon naman, hindi papayagan na pumasok ang mga tour boats. Lima lang ang papayagan pagkalabas na pagkalabas, ‘yong iba doon na sa mga mooring buoys maghihintay para hindi overcrowded sa area ng mga lagoons,” he pointed out.
He also said there will be “marshalls” in both lagoons to manage the influx of tour boats and the entry of visitors.
The marshalls will also be tasked to remind the visitors that their “time is up” inside the lagoons.
“Sila ang mag-gu-guide at bibilang doon sa mga papasok sa bawat lagoon at pagkatapos ay kapag oras na nang paglabas ay sila din ang mag-re-remind. We are doing this to find a solution to address ‘yong sinasabing overcrowding na nagiging isyu na ngayon,” he said.
Cruz said the dry run will only be for “one day” on November 8.
“Dry run pa lang ito as a result of our meeting noong November 5 with the municipal government of El Nido, the travel and tour agencies, and other stakeholders,” he said.
Cruz added that the dry run will require tour boats and travel managers to register with the El Nido Municipal Tourism Office (MTO) and the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) to avail of time slots.
The dry run’s first hour of entry will be at 7:00 a.m. and the last is at 4:00 p.m., he said.
Cruz said “combination tours” will also not be allowed during the testing process as this is one of the causes of overcrowding.
“Kung Tour A ay ‘yon lang ang gagawin nila. Wala munang combination tours ng mga iba-ibang isla. Titignan natin kung mag-wo-work ito,” he said.
The results of the dry run on November 8 will be evaluated the next day for possible long-term implementation.
“We want to know if the plan will solve the problem of congestion in the lagoons,” Cruz said.
He said the evaluation would be able to tell them if there is a need to increase the number of visitors and kayaks inside the lagoons, retain, or further reduce them.
“Sa evaluation malalaman namin kung dadagdagan pa ba, ire-retain na lang o babawasan pa bago kami mag-recommend para i-implementa,” he said.
All stakeholders will be consulted before they become part of the tourism policies in El Nido, Cruz added.
He said if there will be no opposition or refusal from the stakeholders and the public, the PAMB will pass a resolution that will be endorsed to the Municipal Council for the passing of an ordinance.
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