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Lio Tourism Estate and Lio Airport, The Philippines

A cease-and-desist order was issued against Lio Tourism Estate, a luxury development served by a private airport, alleging encroachment on the Tagbanua Tandulanen tribe’s ancestral lands. The project also blocked fisherfolk's access to fishing grounds.


Located in El Nido, at the north-western tip of Palawan, Lio Tourism Estate opened in March 2017 and is owned by Ayala, one of the largest and oldest conglomerates in the Philippines. In September 2017 the management of Lio Tourism Estate dismissed accusations that its new upscale tourism resort had blocked access to the public beach in front of it for residents of Barangay Villa Libertad. The issue stemmed from a complaint to the Provincial Board’s Environment Committee. A month previously Board Member Winston Arzaga said they had been asked by local officials to help resolve the issue, saying “The cause of it all is the access of local fishermen to their traditional fishing grounds which the Ayala management had somehow restricted.” Ayala’s sustainability director, Mariglo Laririt, said “It’s not accurate to say that they don’t have access to the beach. I think it’s a perception issue more than a real issue that can be resolved through constant communication and trust.” She said that while the 325-hectare resort is private property there are two access roads that people can use freely to access the beach, but that as these roads pass through the property the management had placed security guards checking every passer-by. Laririt also said the issue was not new and had been addressed in May 2014 through a memorandum of agreement (MOA) inked between representatives of Lio Tourism Estate and the local community [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lio Tourism Estate and Lio Airport, The Philippines
State or province:Palawan
Location of conflict:El Nido
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Tourism Recreation
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Land
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Lio Tourism Estate is a 325-hectare master planned tourism development with a 4.2 kilometre white sand beach front. It is owned and operated by TKPI, a subsidiary of Ayala Land Inc. TKPI also owns and operated four island resorts: Miniloc, Pangulaisian and Lagen in the El Nido municipality and Apulit in the Taytay municipality. Lio Airport is a private airport owned and operated by TKPI for the exclusive use of its aircraft. AirSwift Philippines operates flights between Lio Airport and Manila [7]. The Lio Tourism Estate has its own jetty port and lounge for island-hopping boat trips. The tourism project, on a formers copra (coconut) farm, began with construction of the airport and seaport to provide access, both located within the resort, followed by accommodation and retail facilities. In July 2017 Ayala Land Inc. earmarked PHP11billion (USD216.2) million to flesh out the master plan for the Lio beachfront estate and expand its chain of island resorts through to 2022. At this juncture about PHP 2 billion (USD39.3 million) had been spent on the first phase of development of the Lio project. TKPI expected to increase the number of hotel rooms in El Nido from 213 to 1,000 by 2022.[12] In a February 2019 email interview with Philstar head of project management for Lio Tourism Estate, Mabel Reyes, said that tourism estates based on sustainability was now an integral part of the Ayala Land Inc. portfolio.

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Project area:325 hectares
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectUSD 255.5 million
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:05/2014
Company names or state enterprises:Ayala Land (ALI) from Philippines
Ten Knots Philippines Inc (TKPI) from Philippines - Operator of Lio Tourism Estate
AirSWIFT from Philippines - Operates flights between Lio Airport and Manila
Tourism Infrastructure and Economic Zone Authority (TIEZA) from Philippines
Relevant government actors:National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)
Palawan Provincial Board
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
Department of Tourism (DOT)
Municipal Government of El Nido
Office of the President
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Tagbanua Tandulanen Indigenous People
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Noise pollution, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsLoss of copra (coconut) farm
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
cease-and-desist order (CDO)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:While the NCIP has intervened in the land dispute over encroachement on the Tagbanua Tandulanen IP’s ancestral domain there are claims that TKPI has not complied with the CDO and the tourism project remained operational. Also NCIP issued four notices to comply with the CDO. And the NCIP chairman said the tourism projects disregarded the IPRA law due to not complying with the FPIC process. Furthermore, the problems of fisherfolk access to fishing grounds being blocked by the tourism project date back to May 2014 and have not been resolved.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997
[click to view]

[1] Ayala eco-tourism estate says no issues with El Nido over access to public beach, Rappler, 26/09/2017
[click to view]

[2] Ten Knots complies with DENR order to vacate disputed property in El Nido, Palawan News, 20/08/2020
[click to view]

[3] The Daily Taho – The Indigenous People Of Tagbanua Tandulanen, 11/04/2021
[click to view]

[4] Philippines: Sustainable Tourism, Development Project – El Nido, Safeguards Due Diligence Report, May 2021, Saian Development Bank (ADB)
[click to view]

[5] El Nido IPs make headway in a land dispute with AyalaLand, Maharlika TV, 18/07/2021
[click to view]

[click to view]

[7] NCIP issues CDO against Ayala’s El Nido projects, Manila Standard, 15/03/2022
[click to view]

[8] ‘We can’t even fish’: Palawan tribal leader pushes back vs Ayala Land’s El Nido dev’t, Bilyonaryo, 16/03/2022
[click to view]

[9] NCIP clamps down on Ayala Corp’s tourism operations in El Nido, Palawan News, 17/03/2022
[click to view]

[10] Tribal group wants NCIP to retain order against Ayala projects in El Nido, Maharlika TV, 18/03/2022
[click to view]

[11] Baguilat favors CDO issuance against Ayala Corporation’s Ten Knots Philippines, Inc., Palawan News, 26/03/2022
[click to view]

[12] Ayala Land allots P11B for El Nido projects, Business Enquirer, 10/07/2017
[click to view]

[13] Ayala Land bullish on ecotourism estates, The Philippine Star, 19/02/2019
[click to view]

[14] Lio Estate receives sustainable tourism award in Berlin, GMA News Online, 14/03/2019
[click to view]

[15] Designated Tourism Enterprise Zones, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded mapping, email: [email protected]
Last update27/04/2022
Conflict ID:5892
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