By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has reminded tourists visiting the Cuatro Islas Protected Landscape and Seascape (CIPLS) in Hindang and Inopacan, Leyte that the tourist spot is limited to 500 visitors only per day.
DENR-Eastern Visayas issued the reminder as influx of tourists to the four scenic islets of Apid, Digyo, Himokilan, and Mahaba has significantly increased last summer.
The carrying capacity limit of the tourist spot has been adopted by the CIPLS Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) from a study conducted by German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for its Protected Area Management Enhancement (PAME) project, which recommends limiting visitors to 500 per day particularly on Digyo Island.
The study also recommends limiting snorkelers to 200 per day and entry of boat to the island at 20 utmost per day.
Boat operators are likewise expected to strictly use designated docking areas and mooring zones to mitigate reef destruction caused by indiscriminate anchoring.
These proposals from the study conducted by GIZ-PAME were adopted for implementation through a PAMB Resolution in September 2016.
The PAMB, chaired by the regional director of the DENR, decides on matters relating to planning, protection, and general administration of protected areas.
DENR stressed that economic improvement through local tourism should not be at the expense of the environment, and one way to lessen the pressure on the fragile ecosystem of CIPLS is strictly imposing a carrying capacity limit.
It further emphasized that this shall avoid overcrowding in the area which may cause damage to the island’s healthy reef colonies, marine and other biodiversity resources, and its pristine surroundings.
CIPLS is one of the seven protected areas in the region declared under the National Integrated Protected Area System or NIPAS Act.
It was proclaimed as a marine protected area (MPA) through Presidential Proclamation No. 270 on April 23, 2000.
The MPA boasts of white sandy shores surrounded by beautiful coral gardens, which are considered one of the best in Leyte Island.
It is home to countless diverse coastal and marine organisms, wildlife and ecosystems.
It also showcases an underwater paradise ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
The limestone formation in most of the islands represents fossil of coral reefs and fauna in the area