By APD writer Melo M. Acuna
MANILA, March 5 (APD) – Uncertainty looms over one of the Philippines’ top tourist destinations as national government officials think of ways to restore Boracay into its pristine conditions without necessarily affecting livelihood of some 17,000 workers in the island.
Early last month President Rodrigo Roa Duterte described the white-sand tourist destination was “drowning” in human waste as he ordered resort owners, restaurant operators and local officials to immediately act or face closure if only to protect the tourists’ well-being.
Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte threatens to close ‘cesspool’ Boracay
He went on to describe the island as “cesspool.”
Last Friday, top government officials did an ocular inspection and conducted an inter-agency conference to discuss ways to clean Boracay Island and maintain tourist arrivals.
Among the suggestions were to close Boracay for at least two months and focus on massive clean-up and construction of waste water treatment plants and sewerage system.
However, Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chair of the Committee on Environment said she was against the plan to close the area for 60 days. She recommended the closure of establishments which miserably failed to adhere to business and sanitary standards.
In a separate statement, Philippine Travel Agencies Association President Marlene Dado Jante said there are still responsible resort owners who should not be made to suffer for the fault of other establishments.
She, however, said should the government opt to temporarily close Boracay, their 600-member strong association “have more than enough alternative destinations to offer their clients.”
There were earlier reports of the presence of E. coli bacteria in the area. Government figures revealed some 2.1 million local and foreign tourists visited Boracay last year.
Ms. Jante said they are also concerned about the livelihood of thousands of individuals whose livelihood are dependent on the tourism industry in Boracay Island.
She added they hold their members accountable to the highest standards in their operations.
“If there are infringments, we will demand that they correct them while also expecting an upgrade on their facilities and services,” she further said.
According to Tourism Asst. Secretary Frederick Alegre, there were 2.1 million foreign and local tourists who trooped to Boracay last year.
“The inter-agency committee composed of senior officials from the Departments of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, Interior and Local Government, Public Works and Highways and Justice listened intently to the comments and suggestions from lawmakers, local government officials and stakeholders and would report to President Duterte their findings,” Mr. Alegre said.
Tourist arrivals last year reached 6.6 million with a noticeable increase of 11.5% from 5.9 million in 2016. Chinese tourists accounted for over 900,000 arrivals last year second to South Koreans which maintained its top spot at 1.5 million.
“Courtesy of Asia Pacific Daily”