President Duterte’s threat to shut down Boracay within six months” if the environmental issues are not addressed “is as good as it comes, and it should be taken too as fair warning to El Nido and Coron to either shape up or ship out. While our two resort towns are not in league with Boracay in terms of its mounting drainage, garbage and waste disposal problems, this does not mean that we are far off from the President’s radar and sharp tongue. Coron was, in fact, mentioned by Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo in the same breath as Siargao, as two tourism destinations that need to fix its environmental woes. The Secretary’s comment drew a sharp rejoinder from Mayor Jerry Baracoso who took exceptions to the unfair branding of his town and assured all and sundry, that Coron’s tourism issues are manageable and are being effectively addressed by the LGU.
Of late, El Nido has caught the attention of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu himself, who without hesitation, ordered a cap on the number of visitors to some of El Nido’s famous attractions. The limit is based on the carrying capacity of the destination itself, having in mind the sustainability of the tourism industry in El Nido.
The real problem though in El Nido is the unabated construction of tourism facilities within timberland areas. There is a brisk sale of properties in these areas to investors who are often assured by some unscrupulous officials that all they have to do is get a tax declarations, deal with some building officials who will turn a blind eye, and presto, you are in business.
Secretary Cimatu should also look into the performance of the PAMB, or the Protected Area Management Board. The very structure of PAMB insures its dismal failure. Here is one environmental body most susceptible to manipulations by vested interests. Majority of PAMB members are Barangay Captains who are lumped with NGOs and with all kinds of representatives from various sectors. Nothing wrong with all of them sitting in the PAMB, the trouble is Barangay Captains have more urgent things to do and would rather be somewhere else than sit the whole day listening to technical presentations of which they have very little interest. They seldom attend PAMB meetings and if ever they do, expect some big projects up for endorsement ” sponsored ” by some local politicians. In brief, DENR could not simply rely on PAMB to implement environmental laws. Perhaps, Secretary Cimatu could look into his own personnel assigned in El Nido and from there, spell out tough measures to save El Nido from the clutches of individuals whose only interest in the town is to make a fast buck.
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