The picturesque town of El Nido amid reports of ongoing diarrhea cases. (Photo from Allen Joshua Rapues/Allen Shooter)

Regional and local health officials are recommending the removal of meals supplied to tourists on El Nido island-hopping trips, which may be the cause of the town’s ongoing diarrhea incidents.

The recommendation was made after checks were conducted into what could be the source of the surge in diarrhea cases in the town since March, according to Dr. Peter Curameng, provincial team leader of the Department of Health (DOH) in Palawan.

Besides stating that the Local Health Board (LHB) and El Nido municipal authorities are already working on the problem, he did not elaborate on the food safety infractions that were discovered.

“With regards to our cases of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) in El Nido, nag-usap po tayo sa ating Local Health Board together with our LGU El Nido. We coordinate with our health facilities for timely monitoring of AGE Cases. Together with MHO, we monitor public and private drinking water source samples and send them to DOH accredited water testing laboratories,” Curameng said.

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“Nai-recommend din po na tanggalin ang food serving on island-hopping tours due to numerous violations on food safety,” he added.

Previously, DOH MIMAROPA medical officer IV Dr. Christy Andaya reported 215 cases of diarrhea from El Nido between March 22 and May 12. They were collected from predominantly females aged 1 month to 75 years.

The public was advised to frequently wash their hands, maintain good sanitation, and avoid eating street food. On the other hand, tourists were advised to only consume bottled water.

As of June 11, data from the DOH Palawan indicated that the total number of reported cases of diarrhea in the town has reached 396, as complaints continue to be received from tourists claiming to have experienced diarrhea during their trips.

Last week alone, 27 cases were reported again from the town.

“Ang ating Municipal Health Office (MHO) has close coordination with the Municipal Tourism Office (MTO) regarding AGE cases involving tourists. Nag-conduct din po ng food safety training prioritizing food handlers of our tour operators, and conduct random food inspection of food preparation, and that’s on the LGU level,” Curameng said.

“Yung ating mga human resource on health po ay nagka-conduct din ng information dissemination on diarrhea, kasama na din ang puspusang multimedia campaign natin on diarrhea,” he added.

Mindanao doctor calls for El Nido rehab
A doctor who was part of a group of 23 individuals from Mindanao who visited El Nido on June 11 suggested that national and local health and environment officials should investigate the cause of the diarrhea occurrences, as it might affect the town’s status as a popular tourist destination.

“Paki-monitor naman ang El Nido, halos lahat ng mga ksama ko nag-diarrhea with abdominal pain and vomiting and fever. [Nasa] 23 kami nag-tour, [at] 13 sa amin nagkasakit,” the Mindanao doctor who requested anonymity told Palawan News on Messenger on Thursday.

“Hindi namin alam sa food or sa tubig ang naging dahilan ng LBM, abdominal pain, vomiting ng mga kasama ko. May mga ksama kami hindi na [nakasama] sa tour dahil sa LBM na yan,” he added.

Even the children who traveled with them had diarrhea, which was unfortunate because they did not enjoy their vacation.

He said, however, that he did not report what happened to them to El Nido health authorities. “Ako na lang [ang] nag-manage ng mga naging sakit ng mga ksama ko while nasa El Nido kami. Wala na kaming time para mag-report pa sa LGU.”

Further, he stated that it will not harm the municipality if it closes for a period of time and undergoes rehabilitation similar to Boracay in order to ensure that water and food sources are free of toxicants that cause diarrhea.

“Dapat i-rehab na ito gaya ng Boracay. Biruin mo, every day may nagda-diarrhea sa amin, matanda man o bata. Di kasi biro na 15 sa amin nagka-LBM. Ako naman ang nag-e-LBM ngayon,” he said.

Andaya stated in May that water samples were collected from El Nido in order to determine the source of contamination. However, no results have been reported as of yet.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.