The beautiful island of Palawan, especially the Municipality of El Nido, on its west coast, is having a tourism boom. Some local businesses, such as small-scale resorts and snorkeling and scuba tour operators, profit directly. Others, such as laundry services and high-value vegetable farms, see indirect benefits.
The communities know that tourists come for the beaches and coral reefs. The barangays (villages) of Maligaya, Buena Suerte, Masagana, Aberawan, Manlag, Corong-corong, and Bebeladan have already declared 30 areas as no-take marine protected areas (MPAs), totaling 2,251 acres. Most everyone is trying to protect the reef. In particular, boatmen take care to drop anchor only in designated areas. However, repeated dropping of anchors, even if done on the fringes, still damages the reefs. Moreover, some tourists don’t understand the dos and don’ts of keeping coral damage at a minimum.
The Municipal Tourism Office, the Municipal Tourism Council (private association of guides and resort owners), and the El Nido Foundation plan to install permanent mooring and marker buoys in the MPAs. Boats will be able to tie up without dropping anchors on fragile coral. The groups will also encourage guides to carry cards (in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and other languages), spelling out rules of conduct for tourists. A Seacology grant will fund the purchase and installation of mooring buoys in support of the MPAs.