The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) embarked on a joint effort to save Boracay Island in Aklan province from further destruction.
This developed after Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu recently conducted an aerial survey of the world-renowned island, which is fast losing the balance between environmental conservation and tourism development.
The two Cabinet officials also presided over a multi-sectoral meeting, including the island’s tourism stakeholders, to address pressing concerns about on and offshore pollution, brought about by waste disposal.
“It’s a shame that Boracay, which has repeatedly been recognized by prestigious travel magazines as the World’s Most Beautiful Island, may yet end up a paradise lost if water contamination continues,”
“It’s a shame that Boracay, which has repeatedly been recognized by prestigious travel magazines as the World’s Most Beautiful Island, may yet end up a paradise lost if water contamination continues,” Teo said.
At least two million international visitors flock to Boracay for sun and beach holiday, water sports, and scuba diving all year round, contributing nearly P50-billion in annual receipts. It has also become a frequent luxury cruise ship destination.
The 10.32 square-kilometer island paradise is nestled between the Sulu Sea and the Sibuyan Sea. It is home to three barangays – Yapak, Bulabog, and Manok-Manok – in the municipality of Malay, Aklan and with an aggregate population of 34,000.
Teo blamed the lack of proper sewerage system, as well as a number of business establishments that tap and dispose their waste through the rainwater drainage system all the way to the sea, as contributing factors to the spoliation of the island.
Another major problem that prompted the recent on-site meeting is the alarming recurrence of flooding in most parts of the Boracay tourist hub, particularly the flash floods that occurred during the height of typhoon Urduja last December 18.
Meanwhile, TIEZA (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Authority), DOT’s infrastructure arm, said it will pour in P400-million more to the ongoing drainage project in the island, which was initially valued at P716-million. Phase II aims to alleviate heavy flooding in the area.
Cimatu, for his part, said he had called the attention of Malay Mayor Ciceron Cawaling regarding the worsening garbage problem. Cawaling, along with Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores, responded by urging the Duterte administration to provide them more funds.
Teo and Cimatu said an executive order drafted by an inter-agency committee will be submitted to President Duterte to address once and for all the serious problems besetting Boracay.
The inter-agency committee will include other government agencies crucial to rehabilitating Boracay such as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Teo also planned to reveal over 100 establishments that violated state environmental regulations while Cimatu vowed to conduct an individual inspection of their sewer facilities.
Other problems tackled during the meeting include the impact of overcrowding and overdevelopment, where beachfront establishments have extended too close to the shore.
“We can only maintain Boracay’s picture perfect qualities if we can strictly enforce responsible tourism. It’s the only way we can support a sustainable and inclusive tourism program,” Teo said.
Cimatu likewise challenged all local tourism stakeholders, including hoteliers and travel operators, to actively participate in preserving the natural beauty of Boracay.