TOURISTS' FAVORITE. Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte remains a top tourist destination in Eastern Visayas region. (PNA-Tacloban file photo)

PALOMPON, Leyte -- Income from tourist arrivals in Kalanggaman Island reached PHP18.5 million in 2017, as the picturesque destination continues to draw visitors.

Last year’s tourism receipts were PHP2.5 million higher than the PHP16 million generated in 2016, Raoul Bacalla, head of the Palompon municipal environment and natural resources office, said in an interview over the weekend.

Kalanggaman Island is part of the municipality of Palompon, which is about 115 kilometers east of the airport in Tacloban City, the regional capital.

The number of tourists visiting the island rose to 101,312 in 2017 from 95,677 in 2016. The income earned last year was a big leap from the more than PHP5-million income collected from entrance fees of 26,353 tourists in 2013 when the island was first opened to the public.

A foreign visitor pays PHP500 for day tour and PHP750 for overnight stay in the island. A local tourist has to pay PHP20 to PHP150 for day tour and PHP30 to PHP225 for overnight camping. The rate for domestic tourists varies for local residents, students, non-students, and senior citizens.

In 2014, the region’s top tourist destination only generated PHP3.6 million from 17,693 tourists due to impacts of super typhoon Yolanda that devastated many parts of Leyte province on Nov. 8, 2013.

Last year's increase in tourism receipts was attributed to the strict implementation of an ordinance mandating all visitors to register at the tourism center before entering the famous island in Leyte.

“In the past, we allowed tourists coming from Malapascua Island in Cebu to immediately go to Kalanggaman, but starting last year, we required all tourists to register in our tourism center for proper documentation,” Bacalla said.

Coastal residents in Palompon town are also encouraged to report tourist boats docking in coastal areas not identified as designated landing sites.

This policy ensures compliance with the maximum carrying capacity of 500 tourists daily on the island, according to Bacalla.

In 2014, the local government came up with a policy to help preserve the natural beauty of the island through a one-week closure every year devoted for cleaning of the entire island.

“People told us that we are not doing tourism, but discriminating people. When President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay, people started to embrace the policy,” Bacalla said.

Aside from enforcing the maximum capacity, regular water sampling is also conducted in collaboration with the Environmental Management Bureau to ensure the health and safety of tourists and maintain the integrity of the island.

Bacalla added that partying is not allowed in Kalanggaman to maintain its identity as a place for relaxation, away from the busy life in the metropolis.

Only soft infrastructure are seen on the island such as toilets, shower area and a pavilion intended as shelter for their personnel who are manning the island.

Kalanggaman Island, a one-hour boat ride from the mainland, is a postcard-perfect virgin island endowed with powder-white sand and crystal clear waters. It has a long sandbar that stretches toward both sides of the island.

The island that is ideal for relaxation, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving is one of the sites offered for cruise tourism destination in the Eastern Visayas. (PNA)