(UPDATED) The tourism council of Taytay town in northern Palawan is planning to impose carrying capacity limits to its ecologically sensitive small island destinations to ensure the protection of their environments and sustainability.
Taytay tourism officer Joie Matillano said Tuesday they are discussing the proposal to impose the “carrying capacity” now in the Municipal Tourism Council (MTC) along with the plan to turn the operations of other sites into community-based sustainable tourism (CBST).
“What we are doing now is preparing for the influx of tourists bago kami mag-promote aggressively. Kaya ngayon pa lang we are setting the carrying capacity limits on the environment. Sa critical attractions namin like the Pabellon Island Lagoon or Heart Lagoon,” Matillano said.
(What we are doing now is preparing for the influx of tourists before we promote aggressively. That is the reason why right now, we are already planning to set the carrying capacity limits on the environment. Like our critical attraction Pabellon Island Lagoon or Heart Lagoon.)
The municipal government, Matillano said, is looking at setting the limit for island visitors to around 30 guests per hour.
He said like other tourism destinations that are concerned about the impacts of high volume tourism, Taytay is choosing to start limiting visitor numbers to prevent environmental damage and negative impacts on the locals.
Matillano pointed out that they are promoting Taytay as a new destination in northern Palawan but they also want to protect “Taytayanos from being disenfranchised and overrun by mass tourism.”
He said through CBST, community residents can have faster economic growth and improved welfare and equity.
“We are taking it slowly but surely… I was with the Pambato tours in Honda Bay, firefly watching in Iwahig, and Ugong Rock in (Barangay) Tagabenit with Doc Gerry (Ortega) just a few days before he was gunned down… and I saw the pitfalls and success stories of those sites… that is why in Taytay, we really advocate for CBST that already has a set carrying capacity. It’s difficult to make some communities understand, but we are getting there,” he said.
Matillano believes that if the locals are given their share in the control and development of tourism in their communities, they will be empowered to protect not only their culture but their environment from being abused by uncontrolled mass tourism.
He said the goal is also to provide premium services and quality experiences to the tourists who are out in new places looking for authenticity or the idea of a destination being untouched.
“We will focus on providing premium services. We would rather cater to a manageable number of tourists that will have greater economic impacts. Isa pa (One more thing), if you are targeting to earn puwede mo ‘yon kitain (you can earn it) from the manageable number who will be willing to pay for authentic experiences,” Matillano said.
He added that promotion could be done overnight but the readiness of the community needs long preparation, as well as the handling of the possible social impacts of tourism.
Matillano said it is easy to advertise Taytay to attract tourists, but the question is the readiness of the town to handle the influx.
“Ang promotion madali lang but the question is how we will handle the tourists. Kung ano ang pacing ng community sa tourism dapat ‘yon ang masabayan kasi mahirap naman na i-push mo sila pero hindi naman ready. Social readiness ang mahabang preparation,” he said.
(Promotion is easy to do but the question is how we will handle the tourists. The pacing of the community should be equal to tourism promotion because it will be hard to push them if they are not ready. Social readiness needs long preparation.)
Taytay has five island resorts and two mainland hotels which all cater to high-end tourists.
Among its attractions are Fuerza Santa Ysabel de la Paragua (Fort Santa Isabel), Lake Manguao Municipal Conservation Area, Taytay Bay, Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape, Mt. Capoas, Liminangcong, Pabellon Island, and Cuyaoyao Nature Park. (with reports from Celeste Anna Formoso)