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Paradise on Earth

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El Nido’s majestic chunks of land, composed of around 45 islands and islets, are among the reasons it was hailed as one of the top rising travel destinations in the world. Not to mention that its continuous recognition on travel sites, vlogs, and anecdotes proclaiming its timeless wonders are a testament to how captivating and life-changing it can be.

It is named after the edible nests of swiftlets, the main ingredient of Nido soup, found in the crevices of its cliffs. El Nido means the nest in Spanish.

Entrée to the Bacuit archipelago, located at the northern tip of what is considered to be the Philippines’ last ecological frontier, El Nido is one out its three gems along with Coron and Puerto Princesa.

Blessed with islands that hide the most enchanting spots nature has to offer — secret lagoons with turquoise and clear waters; various snorkeling and diving haven that are surrounded with coral reefs and schools of colorful fishes; limestone cliffs that have unique distinctions on their own; mangroves that houses the most diverse flora and fauna; and white sand beaches that lures tourists all summer long. There is no literal place not to go to but all of them, just to bask in the wonders of El Nido’s nature.

Even if it’s beautiful and secluded, El Nido makes the trip worth it.

As it is a literal paradise in the Philippines, it is important not just to appreciate it, but to preserve and protect the magical feeling it gives people who visit it, considering that El Nido’s wonder depends on its reach ecological resources. And with the influx of tourists coming in and out of Palawan, it’s hard to determine if the tourism has a good or bad impact on El Nido’s environment.

El Nido is considered to be a managed resource protected area because of its natural, ecological and cultural value to the world. In 1991, the Bacuit became a marine reserve because of the endemic and endangered species it continues to house. Besides the pride of its beaches, its flora and fauna are something to marvel about, some of which are rare and couldn’t be found anywhere else in the world.

It then expanded in 1998, the town is proclaimed as part of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area under Presidential Proclamation 32 to “ensure long-term protection and maintenance of biological diversity while providing at the same time a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet community needs.”

In 2017, a report from the El Nido Municipal Tourism office showed that there were around 200,000 tourist arrivals and has increased 30 percent over the last three years.

Last 2018, the tourist arrivals in El Nido peaked to 1.8 million from both local and international tourists, coinciding with the news of Boracay’s six-month closure and rehabilitation. This, with the global recognition of El Nido, have tourists coming in and out of El Nido, overpowering around 41,000 residents with its growing number of visitors from around the world each year.

Back in February 2018, DENR-Mimaropa regional director Natividad Bernandino said, “We value El Nido’s contribution to the economy of Palawan and the country but we also worry that the magnitude of tourist activities in El Nido is already way beyond its carrying capacity,” as El Nido is identified as one of the prioritized areas in Palawan.

And with the influx of tourists coming in and out of El Nido, there are instances wherein there will be environmental issues and damages that can slip under the radar of their local government and small to big scale policies that are to cover them. Along with the tourism boost is increased toxic waste, declining water quality and a lot more environmental problems.

To prevent El Nido from having the same fate as Boracay’s, government units such as the Department of Environmental Resources called upon local governments in El Nido to enforce tourism laws and implement policies to regulate the effects of tourism in Palawan. Some of which are limitations and policies within chosen spots in El Nido. Observance and other measures are going to be made and ensured to help lessen the harmful aspects that the boost of tourism can do to Palawan, cushioning the blow of negative impacts to the paradise.

It is never too late, no matter how much El Nido has changed, to preserve its magical wonder.

Photos by David John Cubangbang

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