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BORACAY REHABILITATION: A CASE STUDY

BEFORE AND AFTER


Boracay is a 1,032-hectare well- known island paradise not only in the Philippines but
in the entire universe. It is described as an "itty-bitty island" that is "as close to a tropical
idyll as you’ll find in Southeast Asia, with gentle coastlines and transporting sunsets." This
particular impression is due to its powdery white sand and shallow azure water ideal for
swimming and snorkeling. Adding to its
fine-grain white sand and crystal-clear
waters are the vibrant marine
ecosystem found in the area and the
scenic sunrise and sunset that every
photographer dreams to capture with
their lenses. The island was once
hailed as the best island in the world in 2012 by Travel + Leisure magazine and the White
Beach was a consistent placeholder in TripAdvisor’s annual Travelers’ Choice Awards
that ranks the best beaches in the world.1
However, with the mishandling tourism industry in Boracay and the environmental
degradation, the place became far from the tropical paradise it was known to be. Based
on facts, Boracay can accommodate only a total of 54,945 people at a time, 19,215 of
whom are tourists and 35,730 residents. Out of the residents number, 22,395 of them are
stay-in workers. Furthermore, the carrying capacity of had already been exceeded by
30% because of its existing population of more than 70,7002.
The president himself, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, called the island a “cesspool” due to tourism
abuse and improper waste management. The island generated anywhere from 90 to 115

1
https://www.traveldailymedia.com/boracay-reopening-sustainable-tourism. Retrieved on 29 May 2019.

2"Task Force adopts guidelines to protect Boracay VS tourist influx". Department of Environment and
Natural Resource. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
tons of garbage a day but its hauling capacity was only 30 tons a day. The situation was
even aggravated by the algae bloom along the Boracay shoreline. According to
environmentalists and even some long-time residents the bloom is an indication of
deteriorating water condition and of pollution, which the Local Government officials did
not believe arguing that bloom happens in cyclical even before the development of area.
In 2015, the LGU claim was contradicted particularly by then Environment Secretary
Ramon Paje by explaining that the indicated water pollution resulting from “poor waste
management with sewage being dumped into the waters. The DENR cited a study by
conservation group Global Coral Reef Alliance that “the presence of green algae along
Boracay’s shoreline during the calm season is a strong indicator of very high nutrient
pollution that they are typically found right around sewage outfalls.”3

LESSONS LEARNED
All stakeholders must have learned the lessons of the Boracay closure, in the
hardest way. However, an emphasis must be made to the government realization after
the rehabilitation. It has to recognize that the
problem in the island was due to mismanaged
tourism industry in the area and the
environmental degradation of the island due to
non- observance of laws. Hence, strict
implementation of environmental laws and
adaption of sustainable development
programs are the two important lessons that must be learned in the case of Boracay. It
must be applied at all times for all other island destinations around the country in order to
avoid similar problem in the near future. The Philippine is equipped with environmental
laws which if being strictly implemented will not result to such a disastrous environmental
problem.
The strict implementation of Presidential Decree (P.D.) 1151 of 1979 otherwise
known as Philippine Environmental Policy in order to assure a better quality of life for the

3
https://opinion.inquirer.net/117283/hard-lessons-from-boracay-mess#ixzz5pehmkJTC . Retrieved on 29
May 2019.
present and future generations through the undertaking the environmental impact
assessments for all projects, which may significantly affect the environment. Likewise,
P.D. 1152 issued on1977 provides the Air Quality Management in order to achieve and
maintain such levels of air quality as to protect public health and to prevent to the greatest
extent practicable, injury and or damage to plant and animal life and property, and
promote the social and economic development of the country.
The Forestry Reform Code under P.D. 705 that codifies, updates and raises
forestry laws in the country. It emphasizes the sustainable utilization of forest resources.
Furthermore, P.D. 1067(1976) otherwise known as the Water Code of the Philippines
adopts adequate measures to conserve and regulate the use of water in commercial,
industrial and residential areas. It also provides other policy guidelines in water quality
and management of water resources. To control water Pollution P.D. 600(1974) was
amended by P.D. 979 prohibited the discharge of oil, noxious liquid substances, and other
harmful substances into the country’s inland and territorial waters. Likewise, to effect
social, economic and political reform through discipline and order, P.D. 825 was issued
in 1975 providing penalty for improper disposal of garbage and other forms of
uncleanliness.
On the other hand, Republic Act (R.A.) 8749 also known as the Philippine Clean
Air Act of 1999 provides for a comprehensive air pollution control policy. It is in support to
the objective of R.A. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 that provides that local
government should share with the national government the responsibility in the
management and maintenance of ecological balance within their territorial jurisdiction
subject to national policies and other pertinent provisions of the code.
To provide for an ecological solid waste management program, the Solid Waste
Management Act of 2001 (R.A. 9003), was enacted creating the necessary institutional
mechanisms and incentives, declaring certain acts prohibited and providing penalties,
appropriating funds therefore, and for other purposes. In support to other related laws,
R.A. 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 provides a comprehensive water
quality management and for other purposes, while R.A. 9729 or the Climate Change Act
of 2009 mainstreams climate change into government policy formulations, establishing
the framework strategy and program on climate change, creating for this purpose the
climate change commission.

ECOTOURISM SUSTAINABILITY FACTORS


Ecotourism is defined as the responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the
environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and
education. On the other hand, sustainable development means the development that
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs. 4 In order to attain a sustainable ecotourism, all stakeholders
must have common efforts in their respective capacities, towards understanding of
conservation, communities and sustainable travel.
To attain the sustainability of the island as a tourism site, the National Government
and its concerned agencies, Local Government Units (LGU), tourists, businessmen,
residents and all other stakeholders must collaborate to minimize physical, social,
behavioral, and psychological impacts. Together, they must build environmental and
cultural awareness and respect while providing positive experiences for both visitors and
hosts. The increased awareness of all the stakeholders involved in the rehabilitation of
Boracay will definitely contribute to the sustainability of the tourism island.
The National Government on the other hand, in close coordination with LGU must
take the lead role in providing direct financial benefits for conservation. On the other hand,
concerned stakeholders particularly the LGU and business sector must see to it that
ecotourism has to generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
Particularly, businessmen must be regulating themselves. It has to continue its started
effort of sustainable practices. They must adhere to laws while doing business and keep
watch on each other. Bayanihan being a unique Filipino concept must be valued. It has
been proven that the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation during the
rehabilitation of Boracay contributed much towards the revival of the island paradise.
All stakeholders must also strive to deliver memorable interpretative experiences
to visitors that help raise sensitivity to political, environmental, and social climates. The
impression towards tourists as rude visitors who create inconveniences must be changed

4
https://www.iisd.org/topic/sustainable-development. Retrieved on 28 May 2019.
especially by the residents. This particular perception will only be changed if proper
education will be conducted as regards the concept of ecotourism. In that way, residents
will understand the influx of tourists while the latter learn to value and respect the
complexity of culture of Boracay island.
An environment where residents would have a different perspective of the tourists
attitude is needed to have a sustainable ecotourism island. To have it, they must view
tourists as those who respect their lands while providing additional funding. In return ,
tourists must remember that they are offered a touring experience that showcases
nature’s enchanting qualities with a warm and heartfelt welcoming smile of the residents.
The concerned government agencies must be innovative in the design,
construction and operation of low-impact facilities. The concept of “green building” must
be studied and be implemented if it warrants to have value to the sustainability of the
island. The application of said concept although must not contravene the existing laws
particularly the environmental laws of the Philippines.

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM COMPONENTS


Sustainable Tourism involves a thorough understanding of conservation, the
community itself and the sustainable travel. This can only be achieve upon knowing the
intricacy of its social, environment and economic components. The society particularly all
the stakeholders of the area must be able to bear the impact of the tourism by educating
them. Their respective understanding on the environmental issues along with the
development is an assurance of acceptance and support. Similarly, cooperation must be
seen towards the conservation activities of the development to attain sustainability.
On the other hand, the economic value of the tourism development must be viewed
alongside with the impact to environment. It has to be economically and environmentally
viable. All projects must therefore be in accordance to the national and local laws
implemented. It must also observe the basic norms and standards of the community so
as to avoid conflict with the residents. It has to allocate economic resources to efforts
towards environmental mitigation and preservation. The concerned government agencies
must therefore assess and evaluate the economic viability of the development vis-à-vis
its impact to the environment. It has to done with without any form of bias. The
assessment of the viability of the project must be done with all due diligence in order to
foresee whatever environmental impact it might bring in the future and prepare whatever
legal measure to address the same for the sake of sustainability of the tourism in the area.
Likewise, considering the economic gains of the tourism development, the same
must be equitable to the immediate society. The acceptance of the community towards
the project must be displayed because non- acceptance of them means a trouble to the
investment of tourism. All stakeholders in the business sector must be able to distribute
business profits and they must be able to associate themselves to the community. The
sense of belongingness of other stakeholders to the project is an important indicator of
success. Its sustainability depends mainly on the acceptance of the society. The heart
and soul of the development must be focused on how to address the demands of the
community and other stakeholders. It has to consider the equitability of the project vi
relation to the business profit to be gained. Again, the government being the head
regulator of all the transaction must be vigilant in the implementation and monitoring of
the project in order to have a sustainable ecotourism development.
The said three components must be balanced. No component must overshadow
the other. Obviously, these components must all be equal to attain sustainability because
they are all linked to each other. Hence, the government must take a proactive role in the
sustainable tourism development with the support of all other actors of the community.

IN PLACE CARRYING CAPACITIES


Carrying capacity5 is a quantitative concept that assumes the limit, though difficult
to estimate, of the ability of natural ecosystem to support continued growth of population
within the limit of abundance of resource and within the tolerance of
environmental degradation. It involves the determination of how can a resource system
support a size of population with due consideration to the size of the needs of that
population. In order to maintain the sustainability of the resource system, it must be
observed that the size of the need cannot exceed the limit of carrying capacity. The said

5https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/carrying-capacity. Retrieved on 28
May 2019.
observance to limit must therefore be anchored on the administration and management
of the resources involved and on the way the government runs the system as defined by
the laws and policies issued. Understanding the concept of carrying capacity will able the
key players specially the government sectors in manipulating the needs of the people in
relation to its size, the technology availability, depletion rate of resources and the buildup
of hazardous waste, among others.
Applying the concept to Boracay issue, the data show that the carrying capacity of
the Island had already been exceeded by 30%.6 Similarly, if the trend of garbage
generation in the area will continue, solid
waste disposal will be a chaotic problem
because the hauling capacity in Boracay
was only 30 tons a day compared to the
90 to 115 tons of garbage generated a
day. The five-year study conducted by
the Japan International Cooperation
Agency on 2010 to 2015, revealed that one of the main culprits for algal bloom and coral
reef deterioration is the direct discharge of untreated waste water.7
The challenge of sustaining the status of Boracay after its reopening to the public
must be seriously be undertaken not only by the government sector but also all other
stakeholders of the ecotourism development. It has to be done in a whole-of-nation
approach. Every action must be in collaboration with all concerned. Likewise, the
“Bayanihan” concept must also be continued to safeguard the interests of the
stakeholders. On the part of the government sector particularly the LGU, it has to exert
effort in educating the community on environmental awareness. The burden of
implementing the environmental laws must be taken upon the shoulder of the government
officials. Their political will to exercise its power must be relentless without thinking of any
favor at all. On the part of the different private sectors, they must bear at all times the

6"Task Force adopts guidelines to protect Boracay VS tourist influx". Department of Environment and
Natural Resource. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
7https://news.abs-cbn.com/life/03/21/17/slimy-algae-in-boracay-stir-debate-among-locals-experts.
Retrieved on 28 May 2019.
social responsibility that comes along with their respective interests in the area.
Everybody must act accordingly, otherwise the entirety will learn the lesson the hardest
way ever.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK: PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE


The rehabilitation of Boracay was a serious matter involving ecotourism
development. The economic benefits of the government in particular in this area cannot
be disregarded. The same was true when it comes to the opportunities the said
development had provided to the society is evident to the living status of the community
within the area, particularly those residents in the vicinity of the white beach portion of the
island. But it seems that the environmental aspect of the ecotourism development was
disregarded and placed on the pandora’s box, that nobody intended to open again. It is
in this context that the author intended to use the framework used for ecotourism
development.8 The said framework emphasizes that the environment, society and
economy must be considered in equal degree because non-compliance to the rule would
mean imbalance to the development
itself. The three components of
ecotourism development interact with
one another. Each component plays a
vital role to compliment the need of the
other. Proper and equal interaction of
these components within a system
established by the stakeholders addresses the sustainability issue of the development
itself.
Upon analysis, the said framework is very much helpful in the sustainment of the
efforts done by the stakeholders in Boracay. The government being the lead actor in the
rehabilitation program of the area must consider and study the intricacy of the past events
that led to the closure of the island to tourism. On the other hand, the private sectors must
have learned its lesson to adhere to laws, established norms and standards in order to

8https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Components-of-ecotourism_fig2_326069927. Retrieved on 28 May


2019.
have their interests viable as regards to environment and equitable to the community, as
a whole. The strategy of a whole-of-nation approach is an effective way of making
Boracay, a vibrant paradise island again.