Boracay is our country’s most popular beach destination, attracting visitors from the four corners of the world all year round. This 10.32-square kilometer island paradise is nestled between the Sulu Sea and the Sibuyan Sea, and is composed of three barangays: Yapac, Balabag, and Manoc-Manoc, belonging to the municipality of Malay, Aklan, and with an aggregate population of 34,000.
It has been cited many times as one of the most beautiful islands in the world and is now practically a Hall of Famer in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. It has helped put our country on the map of fun-loving travelers. In fact, quite a number of foreign nationals I meet, when I attend international conferences abroad, immediately mention Boracay when they know I’m from the Philippines.
Visitors, totaling around 2 million yearly, are drawn to Boracay, any time of the year, for sun-and-beach holidays, water sports, scuba diving, and other water-based adventures. Their expenditures contribute to the country’s coffers approximately P50 billion in tourist receipts.
Unfortunately, this paradise island’s success story is currently hitting a snag. The continuous influx of domestic and foreign tourists through the years has resulted in some environmental issues which should have been attended to immediately by past government leaders. The island now has to deal with seawater pollution, street flooding, lack of proper garbage disposal, and violations of the building prohibition 30 meters from the shoreline.
Over 60 establishments, including a five-star resort, have reportedly been dumping untreated sewage water into the sea. There has also been the alarming recurrence of flooding in most parts of the island’s tourist hub, particularly the flash flooding that occurred during the typhoon last December.
Guidelines on proper garbage disposal have not been followed by some establishments, and overcrowding has pushed some beachfront establishments to extend their properties too close to the shoreline.
It is indeed very surprising that, in spite of the island being a major source of tourism revenues, the powers that be in the previous administrations did not put across serious solutions to these problems. Nothing was heard from the local government units either.
I’m glad that President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a bold step in responding to Boracay’s current situation. He has ignited a full-scale government effort to restore the popular beach destination to its former glory, towards further upgrading the island’s appeal to visitors from all over.
Our current set of government officials also moved quickly and immediately embarked on “Oplan Save Boracay,” a multi-agency program headed by our Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo.
A joint administrative order is now being forged with other line agencies: Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Justice, and Department of Public Works and Highways, to immediately address the island’s woes.
The Tourism Infrastructure and Tourism Zone Authority (TIEZA), the infrastructure arm of DoT, has committed to pour in P400 million for Phase 2 of the ongoing drainage project, to alleviate flooding in the island’s heavily populated tourist areas.
Until such time when the DoT will announce the start of the island’s rehabilitation and how it will be done, it is business as usual on the island. Bookings are still pouring in. In fact, some establishments notice an increase in advance reservations.
At a Consultative Meeting called by the DoT the other day, heads of the country’s tourism organizations were given a chance to voice out their comments on the planned rehabilitation efforts, as such will directly impact their respective businesses.
We learned from DoT officers that more of these meetings will be conducted with the hotel/resort owners, their Sales and Marketing teams, and other groups whose livelihood will be affected by whatever move the government will make towards fixing the island’s damaged ecosystem.
Tourism Secretary Teo is batting for the strict enforcement of responsible tourism as the only way to support a sustainable and inclusive Tourism Program. Tourism Undersecretary for Public Affairs Katherine de Castro is crafting a Communications Plan to keep the world updated on Boracay.
With all these decision-makers actively involved in implementing measures to regain our much valued island paradise, there’s no doubt the world will continue to see Boracay as one of the world’s most beautiful islands.
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