Tangke, the famed saltwater lagoon found in the island of Gigantes Sur in northern Iloilo, will be closed for rehabilitation, according to Carles Mayor Salagunting Betita.
"We will not allow the entry of tourists to Tangke for the months of August and September so we can clean it," Betita said. "Besides, it is already habagat (southwest monsoon) season and it is not safe for tourists to go there," the mayor added.
Betita said the local government of Carles will open Tangke to visitors on October 1, 2016 but measures has been introduced to limit the entry of tourists. Carles passed a municipal ordinance in June requiring every boat to get a priority pass from the local tourism office before they can be accommodated in Tangke. It also charges an environmental fee of P75 per tourist, on top of the entrance fees to every island. In Tangke, the entrance fee is P20 per head. "Only 100 tourists per day are allowed entry to Tangke because it is very fragile and it can only hold a limited number of people," he said.
Tangke is a saltwater lagoon of about 1,000 square meters and surrounded by steep, rocky cliffs. During high tide, the water there reaches up to five feet. It has been attracting local and foreign tourists, thus providing livelihood to boat operators from Carles and the nearby town of Estancia.
The Estancia local government protested over the ordinance considering that it will take almost two and a half hours for a small boat to reach the port of Carles. "It will take another hour to reach Tangke from Carles, making the travel time longer when one goes directly there from Estancia," lamented Estancia Mayor Rene Cordero. Tangke is only about two hours by boat from the port of Estancia where operators have been offering their boats for island-hopping services.
Betita met with Cordero at a dialogue called by Governor Arthur Defensor on July 27, 2016 that was also attended by stakeholders in the area. These included the Maritime Industry Authority, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine National Police, and the Department of Tourism. Defensor said Carles has the right to impose tourism regulations in the islands within its jurisdiction.
In a related development, Marina regional director Mary Ann Armi Arcilla urged both Mayors Betita and Cordero to require motor boats to register with the agency. "If they will not register, their boats and their passengers will not be covered by insurance policies when there is an accident," she said.
Arcilla disclosed that of the 51 motor boats ferrying tourists from Carles, only seven are registered with Marina, while of the 40 boats from Estancia, not one has registered.