Briones: Boracay’s loss, Cebu’s gain?

THE news that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay for six months caught many by surprise.

Thousands of holidaymakers who have already booked their trip to the island are scrambling to secure an alternative itinerary, not to mention a refund for their airfare and lodgings.

But their predicament is nothing compared to the locals whose livelihood will be affected when the island, starting on April 26, will be off-limits to visitors.

More than 36,000 workers will have to look for alternative employment during this period.

The revenues Boracay earned from tourism last year reportedly accounted for 20 percent of the country’s total tourism industry, with almost two million people visiting the island.

That adds up to a whole lot of rubbish.

According to a report by the Philippine News Agency, the majority of residential and business properties on the island, or 716 or 834, were found to have no discharge permit and were presumably draining waste water directly into the sea.

A video of one in Bolabog Beach, one of the island’s tourist spots, went viral earlier this year.

Duterte must have seen it or witnessed it himself during his visit to Boracay last February. Either way, he was reportedly outraged by the “environmental violations,” which have turned the island into one big “cesspool.”

“As long as there is s*** coming out of those pipes, I will never give you the time of the day to return to the island,” Duterte had said.

But what will happen to the island’s 40,000 inhabitants, most of whom rely on tourism for their day-to-day needs and were struggling to make ends meet even before the President’s order?

That’s the question critics are hurling against the administration.

The Boracay Foundation Inc. a business association on the island, said that the island stands to lose around US$1 billion as a result of the shutdown.

It’s a lot of money, I know. But is it worth the cost to the island and to the waters that surround it? That’s what the stakeholders must take into account.

In the meantime, residents will just have to grin and bear it. They’ve had every opportunity to rein in the unbridled growth but most chose to look the other way.

So I guess they’re just reaping what they sowed.

Boracay should serve as a lesson to other areas in the country vying to be the next tourism mecca.

Central Visayas should take note. The region is home to many popular resorts and dive spots. In fact, it is already anticipating and preparing for the influx of tourists who were supposed to spend their summer getaway in Boracay.

In Cebu alone, the police and military are beefing up security against potential terrorist incursions.

While they’re at it, I think local government units should check all resorts in their jurisdictions to make sure there are no “environmental violations.”

It should also advise establishment owners not to take advantage of tourists, local and foreigners alike, by charging them exorbitant prices.

After all, we all want them to come back.


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