By Ellson Quismorio
Although it will cost the Philippines billions in lost revenue, the six-month closure of Boracay will still be worth it, AKO-Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe said.
“Definitely, this sacrifice will all be worth it. Let our generation pay for the sins we’ve done to our environment, not the next [generation] who may have nothing to do it,” said Batocabe, leader of the 46-strong party-list coalition in the House of Representatives.
Known for its white sand and pristine beaches, Boracay island in Aklan will be closed to tourists for six months starting April 26 to pave the way for its rehabilitation.
Earlier, President Duterte, who gave the closure order, described the popular tourist destination as a “cesspool” due to its supposedly widespread sewage disposal problem on top of other reports of environmental degradation.
Boracay attracts two-million tourists annually. Its signature summer event, “LaBoracay,” is effectively cancelled following the closure order.
The economic loss from the closure could reach as much as P20 billion, Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III was quoted as saying shortly after Malacañang announced the impending closure.
Meanwhile, flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has also said that it may kiss goodbye some P2.6 billion in revenue from its charter operations in China and South Korea during the time Boracay is off-limits to tourists.
To this, Batocabe said: “Better lose billions of pesos now rather than lose Boracay forever.”
The congressman also called on those opposing the six-month closure to do something concrete in restoring Boracay’s natural beauty instead of just whining. “For after all, they will be its direct beneficiaries.”
Batocabe also lauded the Chief Executive for making the tough yet necessary decision to shut down Boracay, albeit temporarily.
“The President has exercised remarkable political will for the benefit of generations to come despite tremendous pressures from different and highly influential groups who are concerned only about their earnings.
“These groups have no consideration whatsoever for our children’s children who have the same right as our generation and the generation before us to enjoy God’s gift to us,” Batocabe said.
Meanwhile, Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte is prodding the State through the Department of Tourism (DOT) to repackage the country in the eyes of potential foreign visitors in the light of the Boracay brouhaha.
“The DOT can do wonders by aggressively pitching the country as an ecotourism haven and as an extreme sports destination, for one, to make up for Boracay’s shutdown,” Villafuerte said.
The lawmaker stressed that the Philippines need not suffer from a dive in tourist arrival numbers since the DOT can still effectively promote other local prime tourist spots.
As a three-term governor from 2004 to 2013, Villafuerte transformed Camarines Sur into the Philippines’ top tourist destination by promoting the Caramoan Islands as an adventure destination and the CamSur Watersports Complex as one of the world’s best wake parks site of world-renown sports events such as the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon.
Villafuerte said the DOT, the local government units and the private sector should work together on new marketing strategies to develop the Philippines’ potential as an ecotourism and adventure sports hub.