Saving Boracay

I do agree with the move to close Boracay for six months starting April 26.

An interesting mix of public reaction was generated after President Duterte's open decision to close Boracay for six months after calling it a "cesspool." There is no surprise to that since the island is one of the country's top tourist destinations, having been repeatedly mentioned on various publications and by the media as one of the "best islands in the world" because of its white sand, blue waters and tropical climate. Millions of tourists come to Boracay, enabling it to generate billions of pesos in income for both the local and national governments, and provide jobs for thousands of Filipinos.

There was no surprise to the President's decision. I'd been to Boracay twice on several occasions for official functions that were held there, and I did notice its gradual degradation. It is heavily crowded, with thousands of people who are on there to work among the hotels and resorts or even do small business in hopes of cashing in on the island's global fame; and tourists flocking to take advantage of the white sand, blue waters and tropical climate trying to fit themselves on an island with a relatively small land area. It is also a victim of the usual problems plaguing Metro Manila and other big cities in the country, from the building of too many structures, especially on areas near the beach; poor garbage collection; and the lack of proper sewage system. Having observed those, I wondered how the media and various publications came about with the decision to call Boracay "an island paradise" and "the world's best island."

It seems to me that only President Duterte has the political will to address the worsening situation in island, which is the result of poor governance. None of the post-Marcos era Philippine Presidents before Duterte dared to take bold steps, either to implement the law on the State-owned island or order the development and implementation of an intelligent and sustainable plan for the island. Perhaps they did not have the same political will to deal with the powerful stakeholders who benefit from Boracay's fame and assets as Duterte, hence their inability to deal with the worsening situation on the island.

I do agree with the move to close Boracay for six months starting April 26. the island is an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, and the need to address the situation must be done now. The six-month time frame should be used not only to clean up Boracay but also to come up with an intelligent and sustainable long-term development plan, especially on how the community of Atis, the native inhabitants of the island, will have a greater and more active role in the community, with them hopefully being transformed into well-educated and well-trained individuals who can contribute to the island's economy either as workers or as entrepreneurs. At the same time, the six months should also see the demolition of illegal structures, especially on the wetlands and near the beach; and the construction of garbage disposal and sewarage systems, open parks, and a sustainable public transport system. The government should also consider a mandatory four-month closure of Boracay and other beaches in the country every year similar to what is in place in Thailand to give nature the time to recover and authorities to do regular clean-up.

To save the people of Boracay, Boracay, the island, must be saved. This is the reason why agree with the decision to close the island for six months, and come up with and properly implement a sustainable and more long-term plan for it. Boracay, as well as other tourist destinations that are suffering from the same problems that it has and are also in need of immediate action from the government such as Puerto Galera, Coron, El Nido, Tingloy and Mount Pulag, are natural assets that, if taken cared of well, are natural assets that are truly deserving of the best care possible from the State, allowing them to provide more benefits to the people living in or near them, and the rest of the country.

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About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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