Recently, the Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, threatened to close down the world’s best island, and it’s happening.
Our country’s current head of state is known for his bold and wild comments and statements. Which have raised a lot of red flags all over the world and would leave his critics triggered. His current statements were about environmental issues in our own islands.
“I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool,”
the President said during a Business Forum in Davao City last Feb. 9. And this threat will happen if the inter-agency task-force, Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), failed to execute in six months. Since then, the task force has been issuing demolition orders and various violations to different establishments.
But, what really prompted the President’s comparison of Boracay to a ”cesspool”? Which the officials of the local government of Malay town are taking as “constructive criticisms of our President.” Aside from the island’s evident wastewater management problems due to overdevelopment, the algal bloom during the start of the dry season, January to March, is allegedly due to water pollution according to a study. Which was cited by the DENR when they started the crackdown of the violators in the island back in 2015. However, the local government said that algal bloom is a natural phenomenon in Boracay and not necessarily due to effluents. It’s true, but in the same study, ”the extent and duration of the bloom have steadily increased over the last 10 years and become a season-long problem.”
To close or not?
I myself, have made a bold comment and said that Boracay is overrated. I’ve seen and experience algal bloom and the best of the waste disposal problem two years ago. But despite its flaws, which are all man-made, I’ve seen and experience too, that Boracay is an island paradise. Powdery white sand, azure waters and picturesque sunset, no wonder travelers all over the world voted Boracay as the world’s best island a few times.
Then on Thursday, March 15, the DENR submitted a ”rehabilitation” plan to address these flaws. But also recommended up to one year closure, starting 26th of April 2018. Though, this recommendation stirred different reactions from politicians to business owners even to other agency involved in the task force. Instead, DOT recommends closing Boracay during the off-peak season. Since a lot of events have been lined up and paid for already especially, ”Laboracay” which is the biggest event every summer. DOT also asked airlines to not charge rebooking and cancellation fees to affected travelers. Hotels and resorts, however, are still in the works.
The rehabilitation plan.
The government tapped Architect Jun Palafox, the famed Filipino urban planner, to help visualize a greener and better Boracay. His plan focuses on the following areas:
⁃ Trikes, buses, monorails and cable cars should only be all battery operated.
•Infrastructure, Power and Visual Pollution
⁃ Buildings must be 50m away from high water level and should not be higher than coconut trees.
•Drainage, Sewerage and Solid Waste Management
⁃ All establishments must have their own sewerage treatment plant.
⁃ Limit the volume of people and establishments on the island. Better yet, not allow tourists to enter once the island gets crowded.
Though all these are subject to change.
The President’s order.
And it’s now official, the Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said last April 4th, after the cabinet meeting that Boracay would indeed close for tourism starting 26th of April for six months. Also, the local government of Malay town issued a ban on new buildings for six months starting 13th of March. With exemptions on the national and local government’s projects, vital community repairs and those with environmental violations.
No further details were available about the island’s closure. Airlines, the Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air, on the other hand, have issued statements on how the next six months would be for their clients. Both airlines will continue flying in and out of both, Kalibo and Caticlan to service locals. They also can offer a full refund or ticket credit or reroute to other destination (which is subject to availability) to affected tourists. And for those who booked thru a third party, same options are available but needs to contact that third party company to process.
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