Authorities in El Nido to limit tourist numbers to iconic sites

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El Nido
In a bid to preserve the local environment, strict limits are being imposed on tourist numbers in El Nido

Officials in El Nido, Palawan, have announced new limits on the number of tourists allowed to visit some of the most popular sites around the town.

The management board of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area have adopted a resolution to prevent overcrowding in the Big and Small Lagoons and Secret Beach.

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The board has set a limit on the number of visitors, and non-motorised conveyances such as kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. Motorised boats, meanwhile, are now barred from entering the lagoons altogether.

The rules in full:

Big Lagoon

•720 guests per day, 60 allowed at any given time

•30 kayaks/paddle boats allowed at a time

•Five boats (with up to 12 guests each) at the anchorage area, with a one-hour maximum stay

•One guide for every six guests

•45 minutes maximum stay in lagoon

Small Lagoon

•360 guests per day, 30 allowed at any given time

•15 kayaks/paddle boats allowed at a time

•Five boats (with 12 guests each) at the anchorage area, with a one-hour maximum stay

•One guide for every six guests

•45 minutes maximum stay in lagoon

Secret beach

•144 guests per day, 12 guests allowed at any given time

•Two boats (with 12 guests each) at the anchorage area, with a 45-minute maximum stay

•One guide for every six guests

•30 minutes maximum stay at the beach

The resolution is is yet to be approved by the regional director of Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and is expected to take effect by the beginning of the tourism peak season in November.

Other new restrictions for the three sites are bans on fishing and cooking, loud sounds, music and cliff jumping.

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The sites will only be open to visitors from 6am to 6pm, with final entry at 5pm.

Chance to see the old El Nido

El Nido has seen its tourist arrivals increase by nearly a third in the last three years. Just last year the town welcomed 126,000 visitors.

Protected Area Superintendent Alex Mancio said: “We noticed unpleasant activities happening on these sites, particularly in Big and Small Lagoons wherein boats entering and kayaks operating there are not well-regulated.”

He added that another concern was food and drink being sold in plastic packaging and onboard barbecues spewing out smoke.

He said all of these activities had caused disturbances to fragile ecosystems.

“Before, corals there were in good condition that you can see fishes, and the water was really clear. But lately, we observed that because of anchoring of boats and stepping of tourists on corals, the corals are slowly dying,” he said.

“When we entered there before, we could see birds like balinsasayaw (swiftlet) and Palawan hornbill. But now they’re disturbed and rarely seen due to noise and smoke caused by human activities.”

Municipal Administrator R J de la Calzada said: “We want the tourists to see the old El Nido. If you’ve been here years ago, when you enter these lagoons, it’s very eerie and enchanting, and you get goosebumps as your voice echoes.”

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