By Tara Yap
Iloilo City — The Department of Tourism (DOT) is pushing for the temporary closure of northern Iloilo beach destination Islas de Gigantes (Gigantes Islands) to avoid similar environmental and social woes suffered by Boracay Island.
“This will be a preventive measure. Before we know it, Gigantes may self-destruct,” cautioned Atty. Helen Catalbas, DOT regional director for Western Visayas.
Catalbas suggested to the local government of Carles town for Gigantes’ temporary closure starting August.
Since 2010, Gigantes has been gaining ground as an alternative beach destination to Boracay. Its white-sand beaches, caves, saltwater lagoon, sandbar, and century-old lighthouse station have drawn both Filipinos and foreign tourists.
Tourism made the Gigantes community, which used to heavily rely on small-scale fishing, find alternative livelihood. The rush to accommodate tourists have led locals to venture into opening beach resorts while others have become tour guides, tour operators, or boat operators.
But inspections of both the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and DOT found that government policies and tourism industry standards are not enforced in Gigantes.
“If time is spent more on tourism activities with no regard for sustainability of Gigantes, problems will worsen,” Catalbas told Manila Bulletin.
Iloilo Provincial Tourism Officer Gilbert Marin noted there are too many complaints that Gigantes is dirty or that tourists are being overcharged for seafood and other services.
If the closure happens during the rainy season, Catalbas urged the community to cooperate in making Gigantes a cleaner and sustainable tourist destination.
Meanwhile, Carles Mayor Siegfredo Betita vowed to create a committee to check the 36 business establishments as well as compliance of other Gigantes tourism players to national laws or policies.