By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The local government of El Nido has issued final notices to vacate 24 families who illegally built houses on stilts along Corong Corong Beach directly above the waters of Corong Bay.
“We are working closely with the local government to ensure that the relocation site for these informal settler families is prepared as soon as possible,” Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said.
El Nido is part of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, a 90,321-hectare key biodiversity area protected under Presidential Proclamation 32 signed by then president Joseph Estrada in 1998.
Local DENR officials said the stilt houses do not have toilets and waste is disposed directly into the sea.
“You can smell the stench in that area. These activities have a significant effect to the water quality in the immediate area around the houses. Aside from the fact that they do not have toilets, they are also encroaching on the easement zone, so we hope to move them to a new location soon,” Cimatu said.
“We have learned that some of the families have other homes around El Nido where they can go to. However, for some reason, they chose to live in these informal settlements in the sea. For these families, moving should not be much of a problem,” he added.
But the informal settlers are not the only ones encroaching on the three-meter easement or salvage zone in the coasts of El Nido.
The DENR-MIMAROPA early this month issued notices to vacate to 32 businesses, including resorts and restaurants whose structures were within the easement zone.
The establishments were given one month to remove structures inside the salvage zone.
Aside from encroachments, El Nido is also facing concerns about degrading water quality and inadequate sewerage facilities.
These are the three key issues that Task Force El Nido aims to resolve. The Task Force is composed of the Environmental Management Bureau, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, and the El Nido local government.
Formed last month, the task force is now inspecting over 200 establishments for compliance with environmental laws and is coordinating with other stakeholders to protect and ensure the sustainability of El Nido as an ecotourism destination.