Shutting down Boracay Island completely for one year in order to clean it up is an extreme measure. The island can be rehabilitated and restored near its former glory in partial stages without rankling stakeholders, especially the thousands of small workers and entrepreneurs who make a living in the famous tourist spot.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry early this week raised the same alarm, warning that Boracay’s total closure could negatively affect the Philippine economy. The business group suggested a partial shutdown, or one station of the island at a time, to give way to rehabilitation.
Boracay’s contribution to the tourism industry and the economy as a whole should not be ignored. The tourism industry in 2017 was the third-biggest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product, with 20 percent of the total income generated by the sector coming from Boracay.
Over two-million local and international tourists visited Boracay last year, accounting for a 16-percent increase in island arrival from 2016. The island generated 17,737 direct tourism jobs, or 66 percent of the entire Western Visayas region. Also at risk is P56 billion worth of yearly tourist spending that will be lost once the imminent rehabilitation of the island starts.
Boracay’s total closure, in addition, may boomerang on the Philippines. The island is the most prominent beach and leisure destination included in the majority of tour packages sold overseas. It has essentially become the face of Philippine tourism that has rivaled equally-famous shores such as Bali, Indonesia; Capri, Italy; Santorini, Greece; and Bora Bora in Tahiti.
Boracay’s environmental degeneration is a wake-up call for both the government and private sector, which must work together to ensure Philippine islands and other tourist destinations are protected and sustained through comprehensive master planning. Tourism spots should strike a balance between economic growth and environmental preservation.
The culprits that caused Boracay’s degradation, meanwhile, should be charged in courts and face the consequences. Local government units that allowed the structures to sprout over the island without regard to the environment should also be held accountable for violating the regulations.