Sustainable tourism

The government and the private sector should draw lessons from the six-month closure of Boracay Island. Years of unrestricted mass tourism have degraded the world-famous beach destination and threatened its existence before President Rodrigo Duterte stepped in to prevent the total ruin of the island.

Sustainable tourism

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat is taking the right direction when she declared the start of a “culture of sustainable tourism” in the Philippines starting with the reopening of a cleaner Boracay today, and warned other tourist destinations will be next in the government’s drive to protect the environment.

The tourism chief sent a written “warning” to other top Philippine tourist draws including El Nido and Panglao islands in Bohol province. She might as well include Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro province, Coron Island in Palawan and other exotic coastal areas that have been luring thousands of local and foreign tourists.

Boracay has been overdeveloped to meet the rising tide of tourists visiting its white powdery sands. Several hotel accommodations with no decent sewerage facilities were erected on the island, resulting in sea pollution that prompted President Duterte to describe Boracay as a cesspool. Mountains of garbage, an overflowing sewer system and a carnival-like atmosphere have stained the image of Boracay and endangered its ecosystem.

The government could have prevented the degradation had it enforced existing strict environmental rules. Local authorities were either lax on implementing the rules or turned a blind eye on the situation in exchange for favors. 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Tourism, meanwhile, should lead the cleanup in other major tourist spots. An inadequate sewer system and the uncontrolled influx of tourists are stretching the resources of similar tourist destinations.

But authorities first and foremost must impose fines on local officials who failed to implement the country’s strict environmental rules. They must be held accountable, or put behind bars, for the environmental disaster they caused in Boracay.

Topics: Department of Environment and Natural Resources , Department of Tourism , Boracay , Rodrigo Duterte
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