By Genalyn Kabiling
The people of Palawan should protect the environment of the “crown jewel” to avoid a closure to tourists similar to the case of Boracay, President Duterte warned on Saturday.
The President has called for stricter regulations to ensure Palawan’s sustainable tourism such as putting a cap on the number of visitors and enforcing the easement rule along the beach.
“Let us work together in protecting the environment so that the government’s action to close Boracay Island will not be repeated elsewhere in the country,” he said during the 1st Subaraw Biodiversity Festival in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
“May this festival be an occasion to strengthen your solidarity and commitment to uphold the reputation of Palawan as the ‘Best Island in the World.’ Totoo naman,” he added.
Duterte said Palawan should avoid the “overcrowding” mistake of Boracay, adding there was a need to limit the number of visitors.
“You protect your crown jewel ng Palawan which is really ‘yung mga magagandang lugar. Avoid overcrowding. Iyang El Nido na ‘yan, iba [You protect your crown jewel of Palawan which is really the beautiful places. Avoid overcrowding in El Nido and others],” he said.
“Huwag ninyong i-overload. Bantay kayo diyan [Do not overload it. Be vigilant] Boracay is a classic case of overloading. It can carry only so much people,” he said.
“You have to control the number. Pahintayin mo sila,” he said, about the restriction on visitors in the Palawan’s famous underground river.
He said hotels, resorts and other business establishments should also “follow rules” including avoiding construction near the beach. He said these hotels must also establish their sewage treatment systems to avoid polluting the Palawan waters.
“Do not allow ‘yung mga hotels near sa easement. Ipalayo mo. Sabihin mo talaga doon kayo sa malayo [Do not allow hotels near the easement. Keep them away]. The beach, it should remain to be — dagat talaga para sa tao [the beach is for the people] It’s a property of the national government. Nobody can claim ownership of that,” he said.
“I’m giving notice also to all hotels nag-operate diyan sa dagat. Huwag ninyong itapon ‘yung tubo ninyo diretso. If you want to build a hotel, add another so many million to have a water treatment,” he said.
The government has reopened Boracay to tourists after a six-month rehabilitation of the world-famous beach destination.
The President earlier ordered the temporary closure of Boracay which he claimed was a “cesspool” due to poor drainage system and overpopulation. He later declared plans to put the island on agrarian reform program to give the land back to the locals.
Recently the President distributed agricultural lands to the indigenous people and other farmers of Aklan following the reopening of the island. He said it was up to the land reform beneficiaries if they would sell their properties after the 10-year prohibition period.