Another tourist destination in the Philippines, El Nido in Palawan, is up for rehabilitation but without the complete shutdown as imposed in the case of Boracay, much to the relief of the travel trade.
“I think they saw that the rehabilitation of Boracay needed more planning and cannot be done with an iron hand,” said Jojo Clemente, president of the private sector consultative body Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP).
“They learned from the Boracay experience that there should be a better way of rehabilitating (a destination), that instead of closing everything in one go, it can be done selectively or in phases,” he told TTG Asia.
Clemente welcomed measures pronounced by tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat to impose a carrying capacity, as well as fix the wastewater, sewage disposal and other environmental problems the tourist destination is facing without closing it down.
Puyat is part of the inter-agency task force that also includes the heads of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Interior and Local Government who visited El Nido and Panglao in Bohol last week to get rehabilitation work off the ground.
Clemente further shared that Puyat is consulting regularly with his organisation, TCP.
Approving the government’s new tack, he foresaw the rehabilitation of El Nido and other destinations to “be much better in terms of planning and giving stakeholders ample time (to comply)”.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), which frowned on Boracay’s closure, has proposed to “close or heavily fine only those establishments that are proven to have violated environmental codes”.
It also proposed that “erring officials be charged or removed from service”.
Jose Leviste, PCCI director for environment and climate change, speaking to TTG Asia at the sidelines of the recent PCAAE 6th associations summit in Subic, emphasised the need for “gradual, not abrupt rehabilitation” of El Nido, “otherwise the patient might have a cardiac arrest”.
In the early days of the government extending rehabilitation efforts beyond Boracay, Clemente observed that tourism stakeholders in El Nido are already working on alleviating the environmental impact to avoid the possibility of being closed down.