El Nido Resorts
What can the private sector do to promote and enforce sustainable tourism? The example of a luxury resort in El Nido
Initiative: El Nido Resorts (El Nido, Palawan)
Sometimes the private sector can be the most efficient actor when it comes to protecting the environment, especially in a corrupted country such as the Philippines. However, such an environmental program has a cost and most of the time, only the upscale hotels and tourism facilities can afford it. There is often a gap between a simple marketing operation (also called « green washing ») and having a real positive impact on the environment. Even if we are not able to verify all the information we got in this article, it seems that El Nido Resorts is a good example and a leader for luxury eco-resorts.
After stopping at Puerto Princesa , we took the steep road to El Nido. This small village is famous for the Bacuit Archipelago, its limestone rocks, hidden beaches and lagoons. Despite being isolated, El Nido has become a major touristic attraction in the Philippines.
Because of the beauty of the place and the intimacy of the small islands, luxury resorts have been built, especially for honeymoons. I wanted to know more about one of them, Miniloc Resort, who is known to have an active policy for the preservation of the environment. Unfortunately, no one was in the office at the time I was there (low season…). However, the Director for Environment, Ms Laririt, answered my questions by email.
The Miniloc Resort was the first resort built in the area by divers in 1981. At that time, the Bacuit Archipelago was a well-kept secret and the aim of the Miniloc Resort was to offer tourists a good comfort in this magical setting while preserving the environment and creating employment for the community. The resort, which is part of the El Nido Resorts group, owned by the Ten Knots Development Corporation, has always lobbied for more environmental advocacy in the area. However, over the last decade, the sharp increase of the number of resorts and tourists in El Nido made it more difficult to coordinate for a common policy regarding the environment. Ask someone who knows the Philippines and who is used to travel what El Nido was 10 or 20 years ago…He/she will answer with nostalgia that it was « the good old days ». Nevertheless, El Nido Resorts benefited from this increase of tourists interested by the Bacuit Archipelago and has opened 3 new resorts, all luxury and isolated.
El Nido Resorts is willing to be responsible and engaged for the environment.It does not seem to be empty words! In fact, the list of the measures taken for the preservation of the biodiversity and the education of tourists and staffs is very long (see their website). An online database (now under repair) has been created to gather all the information on the local biodiversity and displays a description of all species found. There have been programs for the preservation of turtles and for the release of a bird species.
All guests at the Miniloc Resort, when arriving, follow a briefing on biodiversity and are encouraged to protect it. Moreover, training the employees is very important in the resort’s policy: the program « Be GREEN » (Guard, Respect, Educate El Nido) for the staff includes a training on environmental legislation and advocacy, on biodiversity but also on waste, water and energy management. Since 2007, 900 employees have followed this training. They are also encouraged to put into practice what they learned through an innovative practices contest. Different measures have been taken for the conservation of corals such as buoys for the anchoring of boats, artificial reefs… The resort also organizes seminars to share its knowledge and makes some movies to showcase the local biodiversity (see one episode below). Because of its distance from other resorts and of its commitment towards sustainable tourism, El Nido Resorts also invested in technologies that save natural resources: rainwater catchment system, fuel-efficient generators and boat engines, energy-efficient lighting, and solar panels.
Despite its relative remoteness, Miniloc Resort is not alone: in El Nido, the resorts spread very quickly. This touristic development led to an increase of employment in the local community but it was most of the time at the expense of the environment. While the Bacuit Archipelago was declared as a protected area in 1998, efforts are still needed to preserve this beautiful landscape. In the Philippines, there are always plenty of laws, but enforcing them is often problematic. There is a lack of support from the local government to avoid illegal fishing, anchoring of boats in certain zones and abusive extraction of sand. According to Ms Laririt, there are too many government agencies with different regulations and this creates confusion on who is really in charge of the environment. El Nido Resort regrets that there is no sanction towards resorts that do not respect the environment, because it does not create incentives for the other ones to lower their ecological footprint.
I haven’t talked about the Environmental Fee for tourists yet. These fees are implemented by the local governments in most of the touristic sites in the country and I NEVER found a place where its use was transparent. Believe me, when there is really something smart and appropriate done with the money, the government will immediatelly put posters all around the city to inform the citizens. In El Nido, no one was really able to tell me what is done with the Php 200 tax for every visitor (huge amount of money!). Ms Laririt herself confessed that they would like more transparency for this fund. A lot needs to be done: cleaning-up the lagoons and beaches, enforcing the environmental regulations and creating marine sanctuaries.
All in all, El Nido Resorts program’s regarding the environment is really positive. Unlike the politicians, they understood that they get their revenues from the amazing natural resources of the Bacuit Archipelago and that they must preserve it. If this article makes you want to visit Miniloc Resort, do not forget to check out your savings before booking: with the rate of one night starting at 250 Euros, paradise has a price!