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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Boracay redux

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Boracay Island, once associated with wild parties and unrestricted tours, will reopen on Oct. 26 under strict state rules that aim to limit arrivals in the famous tourist destination.

Boracay redux

Alcohol drinking and smoking will be banned along the beach areas of the island, while only 19,000 tourists will be allowed at any time. The government is imposing the rules to protect the island’s fragile ecosystem. Up to 40,000 beachgoers unwound on its sand and swam in its once-pristine waters during peak periods in the past. Boracay, before President Rodrigo Duterte ordered its closure to visitors in April, attracted two-million tourists annually, pumping about $1 billion in revenues into the economy.

READ: Party’s over: Government sets crackdown on beach revelry in reopened ‘Bora’

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Much has been done—or undone —on Boracay since Duterte described it as a cesspool and authorized its closure. Bars, restaurants and hotels were demolished to restore a 30-meter stretch of sand between the water and tourist areas. Environment Undersecretary Sherwin Rigor said these would be off-limits to drinking, smoking, weddings, vendors, and massage providers—activities that can be done inside hotels and restaurants.

The government, in addition, will limit tourist accommodations to 6,000 hotel rooms, or half the current total. The rest of the hotel and vacation facilities are expected to go out of business after failing to comply with environmental and other regulations. Boracay hotels, according to the environment official, are now required to put up their own sewage treatment plants to clean up the island.

It is too early to tell if the government can successfully implement the rigid rules once tourism activities pick up pace on the island. But authorities should be reminded of the environmental disaster that struck Thailand’s famous Maya Bay immortalized in the movie “The Beach,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Thai government is closing the beach indefinitely after a temporary ban on visitors just expired. Thailand, after shutting down the tourist destination in June because of beach erosion and pollution, learned later that the damage to the environment was worse than it had thought. Maya Bay’s beach as well as the plants that cover it were completely destroyed.

Maya Bay’s shores have been degraded as a result of the 5,000 tourists flocking the area daily. Trees and smaller vegetation, according to a Thai official, have been gradually uprooted after the white sands receded.

Lessons should be learned from the Thailand experience before Boracay turns into another wasteland.

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