PAOAY, Ilocos Norte — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has barred the operation of 4×4 vehicles in the famous Paoay sand dunes until the provincial government’s application for a Special Land Use Permit (SLUP) is fully complied.

In a notice of discontinuation issued by the DENR-Ilocos Norte on Jan. 11, it states that there is a need to properly regulate the use of sand dunes in Paoay town to ensure sustainable management of environment resources and at the same time, professionalize the operation of off-road vehicles to protect both owners’ livelihood and its passengers.

The provincial government has yet to finalize a draft ordinance seeking to regulate off-road vehicles operation by setting up specific guidelines and registration.

With the significant increase in the number of operators, some are reportedly unregistered and expanded operation to various sites such as in Suba, Culili point, Onsereef and Masintoc in Paoay town.

For her part, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos said it is high time the provincial government should speed up legislation of 4×4 operations.

“Kailangan ng pakialaman ang mga nangyayari at dapat nating tutukan yan. Hindi na maganda ang mga nangyayari,” Marcos said citing the need to review the carrying capacity of the sand dunes and limit the operation of off-road vehicles in the area.

With the expected influx of tourists in Ilocos Norte from November to December last year, the DENR initially reconsidered the provincial government’s appeal to allow selective operation of duly registered 4×4 operators in Paoay.

But this time, the DENR stood firm to implement its notice of discontinuation if only to ensure the protection and management of the Paoay sand dunes, a unique land form covering about 85 sq./km covering the coastal town of Paoay and extending up north to Laoag City.

Aside from Paoay, tourists and other visitors may still opt to try off-road vehicle riding and sand boarding in Barangay Talingaan, Laoag City being managed by a separate group here in cooperation with the Laoag City government. PNA /