EL NIDO, Palawan - Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Wednesday suggested to implement a 20-meter no-build zone here as Cabinet secretaries evaluated the resort town's compliance with environmental policies.
El Nido's current 3-meter easement zone from the shoreline should be adjusted "to allow tourists to enjoy the sand and the view with enough space," Cimatu told reporters.
"Nung hindi pa ito tourist destination, in-apply nila ang [easement under the] water code which is 3 meters, so 'pag bukas nito as a tourism destination, nandun na sila," he said.
(When El Nido was not yet a tourist destination, the easement they applied was based on the water code which is 3 meters, so when it opened as a tourist destination, there were already structures there.)
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) might have made a mistake in issuing titles back then, he said.
"I'm very sorry to say that. Kasi hindi pa inakala na gagawing tourist destination ito during the 1980s," he said.
(I'm very sorry to say that. It was because during the 1980s, they did not expect that the town would become a tourist destination.)
The local government earlier dismantled several establishments that violated the town's 3-meter easement policy.
It earlier said it would limit the number of visitors in the resort town, popular for beaches and lagoons, to avoid overcrowding and littering in tourist spots.
The 923-square kilometer resort town accommodated 200,000 tourists in 2017 alone, data from the local government showed.
The government has yet to determine the carrying capacity of El Nido, but funds for the study are already on standby, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said.
The government will not shut down the entire tourist destination but only rehabilitate portions of El Nido, she said.
El Nido's clean-up comes a month after Boracay was reopened to tourists after a half-year rehabilitation.
The Western Visayas island was closed to tourists in April after President Rodrigo Duterte said the island's waters had turned into "cesspools" due to sewage woes.
- with a report from April Rafales, ABS-CBN News