El Nido to resolve overcrowding in Small, Big Lagoons

Keith Anthony S. Fabro

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El Nido to resolve overcrowding in Small, Big Lagoons
Local officials hold a dry run of a proposal to limit the number of tourists and kayaks that can enter the lagoons

PALAWAN, Philippines – The El Nido municipal government wants to address the issue of overcrowding in its popular Small and Big Lagoons by imposing a limit on the number of tourists it can cater there at a time.

Town administrator RJ de la Calzada said the town is mulling over the possibility of passing a carrying capacity ordinance that would control the entry of tourists to these lagoons and further enhance guests’ experience. (READ: El Nido’s balancing act: Managing nature and tourism)

“Our lagoons are supposed to evoke an enchanting feel because when you’re there you could hear nothing but the sounds of nature, like the chirping of birds,” he told Rappler over the phone on Thursday, November 8.

But due to the unbridled influx of frenetic tourists there, he said experiencing the lagoons’ calm ambiance is getting rarer nowadays.

“So this is for them to have an authentic visitor experience which they otherwise can’t have when the lagoons are overcrowded,” he added.

De la Calzada, an environment specialist, also said the carrying capacity will help maintain the environmental integrity of the lagoons that harbor different bird species, notably the endangered Palawan hornbill.

“When there’s so much noise inside the lagoons, the birds living there get disturbed and eventually displaced,” he added.

Implementing a carrying capacity, De la Calzada emphasized, would also help maintain the remaining coral reefs, especially those near the lagoons’ entrance.

“This would help in preventing humans from trampling on our corals which are oftentimes mistaken as rocks,” he said.

Aside from their aesthetic value, corals serve as breeding ground for fish and other marine animals that support commercial and subsistence fisheries.

On Thursday, the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) management held a dry run of the proposed measure, with marshalls stationed in the lagoons to limit the number of people and kayaks that can enter and stay there for every 1.5 hours.

Initially, a maximum of 30 visitors and 15 kayaks had been allowed in Small Lagoon, while twice of the aforesaid numbers had been accommodated in Big Lagoon per batch.

Mooring buoys have also been installed for boats not to anchor near the entrance of Small Lagoon or enter into the Big Lagoon, as it had been observed that this contributes to the congestion issue.

The dry run was the result of a November 5 meeting attended by travel and tour agencies, and other local tourism stakeholders.

Pablo Cruz, acting protected area chief, said this testing process will help them assess whether there is a need to increase or reduce the initial numbers under their proposed carrying capacity policy.

Cruz in a separate Rappler interview said all stakeholders will be consulted again on Friday, November 9, before the proposed policy will be forwarded to the municipal board for adoption. – Rappler.com

El Nido image via Shutterstock

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