The Palawan town of El Nido will is set for a six-month environmental rehabilitation — but it won’t be closed to tourists like Boracay.
Speaking today (Wednesday, November 14), Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said: “We will not be closing the town because it would be unfair for those establishments that have been following the law.”
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu had previously announced the clean-up operation after finding at least 22 establishments violating environmental policies.
Inspectors will first check the coliform level of the waters surrounding the island and tackle establishments violating easement rules and clean water laws, Puyat said.
“The priority would be fixing the wastewater, how they dispose their sewage. I told them we have to take care of the lagoon because it is very dirty,” she said.
“It looks like a public market now: people cook there, throw their garbage there, party there.”
The government has asked the University of the Philippines Los Baños to determine El Nido’s carrying capacity to see if tourist arrivals need to be limited, she added.
Not only El Nido
Similar studies will also be conducted in Coron, Siargao, Panglao and other major tourist destinations across the country.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) has today warned that closing tourist destinations will have a negative impact on businesses and jobs.
“Closing El Nido and Coron will not be good for business particularly for the legitimate industry stakeholders — such as hotels and resorts — who will suffer the most from cancellation of bookings and reservations for the coming months,” the PCCI said in a statement.
“It will also affect a lot of local livelihoods and jobs.
“PCCI agrees with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat that if ever extreme action has to be taken, there should not be a complete shutdown of Coron and El Nido but instead the government must close or heavily fine only those establishments that are proven to have violated environmental codes.”
About a million tourists visit Palawan every year, the bulk of whom go to El Nido and Coron, according to the business group.
“Tourist arrival in El Nido reached 200,000 in 2017 and with the recent closure of Boracay, the figure is much higher this year,” it said.
As we reported in September last year, local tourism chiefs have already limited daily visitor numbers to some of the most popular tourist attractions around the town.
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