It can be done… when willpower and cooperation prevail! After 6 months of initial rehabilitation, Boracay Island restores its glory and becomes a model for other tourist destinations.
Amid criticisms from his detractors and political opponents, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte went ahead and ordered the closure of Boracay Island. Thus, on 26 April 2018, all tourists and residents vacated the island so that rehabilitation can start.
Exactly six months later, or on 26 October this year, the premier tourist destination reopened with a fresh look. Although the rehabilitation was yet 80% complete, the President was pleased with the transformation of the island. Truly, it took political will of the leader and cooperation of the people to make things happen. Tourism business is alive once again in Boracay Island. Interestingly, not only President Duterte was happy with the new Boracay. Those who were once pessimists and critics of the present administration are happy to see its fresh look. Among those seen enjoying the island on the day of the re-opening were media personalities critical of Duterte’s leadership.
Other government officials who are equally pleased with the outcome of the rehabilitation suggest that other tourist destinations in the country should also undergo the same process to make inbound tourism a more wholesome experience.
Two days before the re-opening of Boracay Island, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat announced the new guidelines for operation. She specifically stressed on the “No Compliance, No Opening policy”. The new rules include:
- Hotels not connected to the island’s designated sewerage system or do not have its own treatment facility are not allowed to reopen. It should be noted that of the several inns, hotels, souvenir shops, and restaurants that used to do business on the island before the closure, only 157 are allowed to reopen on 26 October. These are the establishments that have complied with the requirements demanded of them by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Among these requirements include the maintenance of a safe 30-meter distance from the beach waters and proper connection to the authorized sewerage system.
- No booking, No Entry Policy. Tourists may be required to present hotel reservation slips before entering the island.
- Carrying Capacity is 19,215 persons per day.
- Daily tourist arrival is limited to 6,405. The number of hotel rooms for tourists is reduced to 6,000 – 9,000 from 12,000 rooms.
- The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) is the sole authority that regulates Boracay’s water lines.
- Easement is 25 + 5 meters
- Promote Green Buildings
- Follow Local Ordinances and Environmental Laws
- No Casinos in Boracay
- Smoking and Drinking ban. Smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages along White Beach is not allowed.
- “Laboracay” or the Annual Labor Day party is banned.
- Diving in waters surrounding Boracay is temporarily prohibited.
- All water activities are temporarily suspended.
- Dining by the beach is prohibited.
- Fireworks display is allowed only until 9 PM.
- No installation of electric lights on the beachfront.
- Sandcastle making will be regulated.
- Souvenir shops and hawkers along the beachfront are not allowed.
- Open fires and use of kerosene gas/fuel is banned. Fire dancing that uses kerosene lamps is prohibited.
- Piggeries and poultry farms are banned on the island.
- Hot-coal roasting of meats is prohibited.
Following the Tourism Secretary’s announcement, I heard a few reactions from the grapevines saying that the strict rules might drive visitors and investors away. I also read a comment on social media that they would rather go to other countries for vacation than spend time in Boracay. For me, these type of visitors are selfish and don’t care about the environment. I wouldn’t mind if Boracay Island don’t receive as many guests as it used to, provided that those who come are responsible guests. Likewise, business owners who don’t want to comply with the rules have no right to operate on the island or anywhere else.
Rehabilitation to continue
According to the Environment Secretary, Roy Cimatu, the initial six-month rehabilitation period in Boracay was only the first of a long-term plan. He explained on behalf of the task force mandated to repair the damage on the island that their work will not stop at pure rehabilitation only. Rather, the group aims to bring back the popular tourist destination to its former glory. Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism is now looking into other major tourist spots in the country that also need rehabilitation.
UPDATE: Some tourist spots in the country are voluntarily taking actions in rehabilitating their respective facilities. [Good job! And, thanks for the initiative!]
If there’s a will, everything can be done, indeed! The Boracay Island closure was a painful experience. But it has now become a template for other tourist destinations in the Philippines (and I think for other destinations in the world, too!) that it pays to be mindful of Nature.