El Nido faces new environment probe
MANILA, Philippines — A government-led task force will be given 20 days, starting today, to inspect and investigate establishments and households in El Nido, Palawan province, that may be violating environmental laws and not complying with tourism and business requirements, as the rehabilitation of the resort town continues.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu last week ordered Henry Adornado, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) regional executive director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), to form an interagency task force that would submit on Aug. 25 its recommendations on establishments that might be shut down for noncompliance.
El Nido, one of the country’s top tourist spots, has been spared from imminent closure that threatened similar destinations across the country, following an interagency meeting between the DENR, the Department of Tourism, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and other organizations on Aug. 1.
Cimatu said that while El Nido remained open to tourists, strict no-swimming zones in certain areas in Bacuit Bay would be imposed. Areas where swimming is banned include the locations of four outfalls — Corong-Corong, El Nido Estero, Masagana and Cabugao.
These outfalls registered high levels of fecal coliform, or bacteria associated with human and animal feces, according to tests done by the DENR.
The El Nido Estero outfall, for instance, registered a coliform count of 16 million most probable number (MPN) for every 100 milliliters in April, while levels in Masagana outfall reached 5.4 million MPN per 100 ml.
These levels are way beyond the safe level for water quality, which is at 100 MPN per 100 ml.
While visitors are still welcome to stay in hotels and other establishments in El Nido, they are encouraged to swim in other lagoons and islands within the Bacuit archipelago, the DENR said.
Cimatu said the interagency task force would also identify the structures standing on no-build zones, such as timberlands.
“If we do not intervene in El Nido, it will really end up like Boracay, where no one was in control,” Cimatu told reporters in a press briefing last week.
Since last year, the town in northern Palawan has been included on the government’s growing list of tourist spots needing rehabilitation, following the six-month closure of Boracay Island as its model.
El Nido, which receives over 200,000 tourists yearly, was subjected to a six-month rehabilitation under the local government beginning November last year. At least 119 establishments had already complied with environment regulations.
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