A six-month resuscitation effort has begun on Boracay, after the tourist hotspot was recently described by the Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte as a “cesspool” for its water pollution, ecosystem damage, lack of proper town planning, and lax implementation of rules and regulations.
According to the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has ordered the closure of tourism establishments in Boracay found violating environmental laws and regulations, including easement as well as water and solid waste disposal.
Within six months, hotels without individual water treatment facility must acquire one and have it connected to the centralised sewerage system.
The DOT also stated that in coordination with other government agencies, it will press “criminal and administrative charges against those establishments/operators responsible for the seawater contamination in violation of environmental and tourism laws”.
About 60 establishments in Boracay, including hotels and resorts, have been issued with notices of violation out of the 300 initially identified. The island has approximately 500 accommodation establishments.
Despite the outrage against the desecration of the island renowned for its fine white sand and clear waters, regional tourism director Helen Catalbas said only 192 tourist have cancelled their bookings and that “tourist traffic remains relatively similar or heavier as compared to the past days and weeks”.
In a statement, Boracay Foundation, of which majority of hotels and resorts are members, said it welcomes “the six-month ultimatum” by Duterte to address the island’s issues.
But rather than close Boracay as Duterte had threatened, Boracay Foundation pressed for a simple solution “to strictly implement existing environmental laws and local ordinances and close all erring establishments immediately”.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jojo Clemente agrees that while there’s no denying that Boracay needs to heal itself, “it can be done without adversely affecting establishments that have complied and the people who rely on these establishments for a living”.
“It is now incumbent on the government and the local stakeholders to address the situation in the short, medium and long term,” Clemente added.
Marjorie Aquino, Blue Horizons Travel and Tours’ senior sales and marketing manager, said Boracay’s rehabilitation is long overdue. If the island is continuously destroyed by lack of proper planning and implementation of building clause, she reckons “Boracay will be gone in maybe 10 years”.
“We can still correct things although we cannot bring back Boracay as it was,” she pointed out.