DENR STEP UP TO REGULATE USE OF PAOAY SAND DUNES

PAOAY, Ilocos Norte, Nov 10 (PNA) —Off-road vehicles carrying passengers to an adrenaline rush of roller coaster ride to the vast sand dunes of Paoay will now be limited to selected sites where they can operate.

With the illegal proliferation of said vehicles, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through Officer-in-Charge Noemi Ruadap issued a November 2 letter to stop the operation, pending the approval of the application for the Special Land Use Permit (SLUP). The SLUP was filed earlier by the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN).

Also, there is a pending execution of Forest Landuse Agreement for tourism and special uses between the DENR and the PGIN backed a draft provincial ordinance to regulate and professionalize the operation of off-road vehicles at the Paoay sand dunes.

For the meantime, the DENR has approved only two sites where off-road vehicles shall be allowed to operate. This include the Culili point in Barangay Masintoc and Barangay Suba. The area of operation, however, covers five hectares each.

Based on the latest spot check of the DENR, it appeared that there are more than 200 off-road vehicles operating in the sand dunes. Only 73 units however are officially inventoried by DENR personnel and are allowed to operate.

With the expected influx of tourists in Ilocos Norte from November to December where off-road driving is one of the popular craze among visitors, Provincial Tourism Officer Ianree Raquel said they made an appeal to the DENR to consider the selective operation pending the approval of the PGIN’s application for SLUP and the implementation of the 4×4 ordinance pending at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

“We are trying to keep things in order and we hope our operators and providers will cooperate as we have seen the operation has generated more livelihood to our locals and we should also be able to maintain the demand now that its the peak season for tourists coming to the province,” said Raquel as he acknowledge the importance of setting up guidelines and professionalize the industry. PNA