EL NIDO, Palawan – The environment secretary, Roy Cimatu, suggested on Wednesday to implement a 20-meter non-construction zone here, as the cabinet secretaries evaluated compliance with the environmental policies of the tourist city.
El Nido's current 3-meter easement zone from the coast should be adjusted "to allow tourists to enjoy the sand and the view with enough space," Cimatu told reporters.
"Nung hindi pa ti tourist destination, apply nila ang [easement under the] "Water code that is 3 meters, so pag bukas nito as a tourist destination, nandun na sila," he said.
(When El Nido was not yet a tourist destination, the servitude applied was based on the water code, which is 3 meters, so that when it opened as a tourist destination, there were already structures there).
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) could have made an error in issuing titles at the time, he said.
"I'm very sorry to say that, Kasi hindi pa inakala na gagawing ito tourism destination during the 1980s," he said.
(I'm very sorry to say that, it was because during the 1980s they did not expect the city to become a tourist destination).
The local government dismantled several establishments that violated the 3-meter servitude policy of the city.
He previously said that it would limit the number of visitors in the tourist city, popular for beaches and lagoons, to avoid overcrowding and garbage in tourist places.
The tourist city of 923 square kilometers had capacity for 200,000 tourists only in 2017, according to local government data.
The government has yet to determine El Nido's carrying capacity, but funding for the study is already on hold, said Tourism Secretary Berna Rómulo-Puyat.
The government will not close the entire tourist destination, but will only rehabilitate parts of El Nido, he said.
The cleanup of El Nido occurs one month after Boracay was reopened to tourists after a half-year rehabilitation.
The island of Western Visayas was closed to tourists in April after President Rodrigo Duterte said the island's waters had become "water wells" due to wastewater problems.
– With a report by April Rafales, ABS-CBN News.