El Nido, ranked as one of the top 20 most beautiful beaches in the world by a foreign luxury and lifestyle travel magazine, will go the way of Boracay Island.
Both Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat agreed that El Nido would be rehabilitated for several environmental violations. Unlike Boracay, however, El Nido will stay open for the meantime.
El Nido, a first-class municipality in Palawan Island and declared a managed resource protected area in 1998 from a turtle sanctuary in 1984 and a marine reserve park in 1991, has been attracting hordes of foreign and local tourists for its several white-sand beaches, serene coves and spectacular limestone cliffs.
But like Boracay, the Palawan tourism destination is suffering from overdevelopment, along with the famous diving site of Coron town.
The government has initially ordered the closure of at least 22 establishments in El Nido for illegal operations. Cimatu says more businesses will be shut down for violation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and the Philippine Clean Water Act.
Puyat, meanwhile, found El Nido “overcrowded,” with several kayaks and boats moored in front of its beaches. The tourism official seems exasperated by the indifference of local officials to pass a measure sanctioning litterbugs within El Nido amid mounting heaps of garbage.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier directed Cimatu, Puyat and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to study the capacity of El Nido and other top tourist destinations in the Philippines in an effort to clean them up. Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay Island on April 26 to give way to a six-month rehabilitation after describing it as a cesspool.
The government should give priority to the preservation of major beach and diving destinations in the Philippines to make the tourism industry sustainable. Hotels and other business establishments must put a sewage and waste disposal system in place to keep the environment clean and protect wildlife.
Boracay, El Nido and Coron are tourism wonders. They should not end up as garbage dumps.