Much has been said about the beauty of Palawan, considered the “Philippines’ last frontier” for the longest time. But is this still true today?
A recent visit to Lio, El Nido, northwest of Palawan, reveals that the province still has that rustic charm and “undiscovered” vibe, with plants and trees thriving by the wayside and the air breathable for walking under bright sunshine unobscured by smog.
El Nido was made famous by foreign productions like the movies “The Beach” (where it was portrayed as part of Thailand), “Bourne Legacy” and the reality series “Survivor.”
Meanwhile, Palawan’s capital city Puerto Princesa and the popular diving destination Coron each have distinct characteristics that have attracted tourists from all over the world for many years now.
El Nido — and in particular, Lio — has also caught the tourism bug. The town that boasts a much-Instagrammed beach is waking up to property development, with quaint resorts now joined by bigger structures that boast sleek, minimalist designs.
No doubt the infrastructure needed to boost tourism will follow even though El Nido airport, though basic, is well-designed to suit the surroundings.
Palawan Governor Kose Alvarez recently revealed they are gunning for four regional airports in the coming years — in Coron, Balabac, San Vicente and Taytay municipalities — to increase the volume of tourist arrivals.
There are, however, worrisome glimpses of a denuded patch on a mountain by the ocean, as well as a glaring gash of reddish soil bared by quarrying at the foot of a hill on the way to the center of town from the airport.
The Palawan government has been quite active in its environment protection efforts, warning businesses to follow its environment rules or risk being shuttered.
The stakes are high for this province, as we all know. Being the “last frontier” ecologically is the biggest challenge to its local government’s strength of will and purpose.
Fortunately, the province has generally managed to keep its mystique intact, with many islands yet untouched, although this is said to be fast-changing nowadays.
Interest in the area has been more pronounced of late, especially following Boracay’s decline.
Palawan has recently received “top destination” kudos from travel sites, and a rash of resort openings, as well as alternative accommodations, are luring more tourists into the area.
A thriving tourism industry is always a good thing for the locals, certainly. However, if the Palawan local government is serious in its desire to keep it thriving by way of sustainable practices, then it should beef up its enforcement even more now.
In forest cover alone, Palawan used to be the number one in the Philippines, according to the 2013 Forestry Statistics report released by the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
And while Boracay is resting and Palawan picking up, the rest of the beautiful sites in these islands should learn to maximize their assets while minimizing damage.
Palawan’s greatest charms of limestone cliffs, a rich marine life and fauna, jungle-like mountains and coral reefs in the Sulu Sea must never be wasted or destroyed with overdevelopment, neglect or irresponsibility.
It is a sort of “gatekeeping” that local government must do in order to preserve the province’s bountiful assets.
The sad thing is continued poverty contributes to the unwitting abuse of the environment, with illegal logging and mining said to be still among the toughest problems to solve.
Government, a few months ago, came up with a tourism program to push for economic growth in the province.
It aims to reduce the poverty level in the Philippines’ biggest province from 56 percent to 27 percent, according to Governor Alvarez.
He said, in a report, that “the three provinces (Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental and Palawan Del Sur) envisioned under RA 11259, which President Duterte signed on 5 April 2019, can be entitled to an internal revenue allotment of P60 billion that could be used in reducing poverty incidence.”
These plans should work in tandem with the ongoing tourism and infrastructure developments in the province with, most of all, cooperation and unity from all citizens.