By Hannah Torregoza
Senators on Wednesday urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to expedite rehabilitation programs for Boracay Island so as not to dampen the country’s tourism and affect the livelihood of locals in the world-renowned tourist spot.
“We have to get our acts together. Boracay attracts two million tourists every year and brings in more than P50-billion in annual revenues. It’s no less named as world’s best island,” Senator Juan Edgardo (Sonny) Angara said.
“Huwag naman sana nating sayangin ito dahil lamang may ilang establisimyento na hindi nakasusunod sa mga regulasyon ng gobyerno, (Let’s not waste this chance just because there are some establishments not following government regulations),” Angara said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier threatened to shut down Boracay saying the garbage problem in the popular tourist spot in the Philippines has become a major health and environmental concern.
Angara said Boracay’s closure is possible especially if its environmental issues continue to escalate, thus local government agencies and officials should strictly implement existing environmental laws and local ordinances, and penalize erring establishments.
According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), of the 150 business establishments recently inspected by the government, only 25 were connected to the sewage line, while a number of them were draining their sewage directly into the sea.
“Tourism industry is a major economic driver and job generator for the country. Definitely, its closure will have an adverse impact on its locals who depend on the island’s tourism for their livelihood,” Angara said.
“Kung kaya huwag na nating hintayin na tuluyan itong ipasara dahil sa ating kapabayaan (If possible let’s not wait for its closure to happen due to negligence),” Angara said.
Senator Nancy Binay, for her part, suggested that the DENR and the municipality of Malay, Aklan, form a citizens’ team that would act as an oversight committee to monitor and maintain the beauty of Boracay.
“Seryosong bagay ito (it’s a serious issue). Boracay has been in an abusive relationship with humans. It’s about time for her to say, tama na! (stop!)”Binay said.
Binay said the formation of long-term teams composed of members of peoples’, non-government, and civic organizations, marine scientists, as well as other stakeholders can add value to the work of the task force assigned to clean up the island resort.
“Kasama sa gawain ng citizen team na ito ay ang pagseguro na sinusunod at napapanatili ang pinakamataas na environmental standards sa Boracay (Part of the job of this citizens’ team is to ensure that tourists and locals are complying and maintaining the highest environmental standards in Boracay),” Binay said.
“It will help the DENR and the LGU monitor and execute measures to prevent all kinds of pollution that impact the environment,” Binay stressed.
The team, she said would also “serve as the eyes and ears, and periodically check that the president’s list of things to do is done.”
Last year, Binay filed Senate Resolution No. 313, urging the Senate to conduct an inquiry to promote a zero tourism waste policy on the island.
Boracay has consistently ranked among the best islands in the world, according to international tourist publications and websites.
Government data show that about two million tourists visited the island in 2017, and is estimated to bring in around P50-billion in annual tourism receipts.