By Corina Oliquino
The small, teardrop-shaped island of Siargao in Surigao del Norte has been described by Conde Nast Traveleras “the tiny Philippine Island giving Bali a run for its money,” listing it among top 20 of the world’s best islands in 2020.
The magazine named Siargao as the world’s eighth best holiday destination for next year, describing, as well the tourist spike the island has seen in recent years.
“This island idyll won’t stay low-key for long – 12 flights a day now land at Siargao’s tiny airport, up from two per week – so pack your surfboard now,” it said, noting something special is happening on the island “fringed with pristine beaches, tree frog-green mangrove forests and sweeping groves of coconut palms.”
“The teardrop-shaped tropical island in the rarely trod south-east of the Philippines is luring legions of right-on sorts to its shores, with its gnarly surf breaks, including the legendary Cloud 9 barreling wave, which counts Kelly Slater and Anthony Kiedis among its riders,” the magazine added, lauding the small island and its bone-white beachy shores and refreshing and sustainability-conscious accommodation offerings.
Conde Nastalso named sites in Pakistan, Plymouth in the UK, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Salvador in Brazil, Kangaroo Island in Australia, Galway in Ireland, Paris in France, Dakar in Senegal, Portland and Maine in the US, Lebanon, Qingdao in China, Frisian Islands in Denmark, the British Virgin Islands, Rabat in Morocco, Panama, Rijeka in Croatia and Kyoto in Japan as part of its 20 best holiday destinations for 2020.
In October 2018, the magazine’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards also listed Siargao as the best island in Asia, followed by Boracay and Palawan.
Despite the island’s reputation as a surfing destination and an emerging free-diving site with its tidal pool and white-sand beaches, the island’s lack of medical facilities has been seen as a problem by many visitors including broadcaster Karen Davila and singer Yeng Constantino.
Following Boracay’s six-month rehabilitation, the island is among top tourist hotspots being monitored by the government.
In a report by Rappler, Siargao’s 49 establishments out of 148, which are violating either the Clean Air Act Clean Water Act, or the Environmental Impact Statement System were issued notices of violation. The Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) also found some of the businesses, mostly hotels and restaurants, failed to secure environmental compliance certificates.
“Proper sewerage treatment facilities are also non-existent, affecting the water quality of the island. Coastal encroachment is a problem, too,” the Rapplerreport said, with Siargao Island and its terrestrial, wetland and marine areas as protected areas under the category of protected landscape and seascape by former President Fidel Ramos in 1996.
“It is home to endemic flora and fauna, with the Mindanao tarictic, rufous hornbill, and the Philippine magpie-robin living in the island,” the report added.
Environment Undersec. Jonas Leones, in an interview with Rappler, said stricter measures are being enforced to prevent a repeat of the situation in Boracay.
“With the closure of Boracay, our local governments saw the need to address pollution that is happening in their areas. Otherwise, if they will not address the existing problems, there is a possibility that they might also be closed down,” Leones said, noting LGUs still have limited interventions despite them being the key to ensuring compliance with environmental laws.
“It’s critical. Without the local government units, rehabilitation will not be effective,” he pointed out.
Leones added that the evaluation of tourism spots would require a bigger budget for the DENR in 2019.
“We see that this is a priority by the President. This is the priority of the Secretary. So we will be asking for a higher budget allocation to make sure that potential tourist destinations will also be monitored,” he said, noting sustainability of a tourism destination is of paramount importance.