Editorial: Serving the greater good

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte will not order the outright closure of Boracay, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said, Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

The President's order, he said, is to "do everything that can be done to rehabilitate Boracay."

That the reaction to Duterte's threat of closure was negative -- the PR spin being about the lost tourism revenues and that the untreated waste is in fact in the other side of the island, as if the water on one side is any different from the water on the other side -- shows how little regard for the environment is given in tourism. Never mind if in arriving at Boracay, you pass through the narrow inner streets where there's a stagnant pond for all to see the dirt and the pitiful state the island is in, to reach your hotel.

The concern is all about the tourism receipts, never mind if there will be no Boracay in the next generation for as long as the tourists are there today.

Roque said that in the Monday meeting of the Cabinet, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu was again asked to submit his recommendations on what to do with Boracay.

We have to admit that all those structures that sprouted in Boracay cater to a mob of tourists that the island can no longer carry and still have enough to show off in the future. The powdery soft white sand and the romantic sunset became the enticement to build without thinking about the island itself. The powdery white sand and the sunset are removed from the whole biota of what the island was and why it came to be the tourist draw that it is.

While walking on the powdery soft sand, the people not used to being on an island with the sea lapping on their feet cannot distinguish the tang of salt of the sea breeze from the tinge of ammonia from untreated sewage. But we of the islands know that smell so well, as it is what distinguishes our island getaways from the ferry landings and ports in the urban areas whose beaches are fringed not by coconut trees but shanties and shacks dropping sewage straight into the sea.

The message is clear: clean up. Treat your waste, don't let it flow to the sea in clandestinely covered sewer pipes.

How fast the clean-up will be done will now depend on all those stakeholders, on the island investors and dwellers.

Simply said, the answer is in the hands of the residents and investors themselves. Hiding behind the excuse of not knowing what to do is but proceeding with how Boracay came to be in the first place -- that sheer arrogance of investors not to obey environment and building laws for one.

"We can learn about it from exceptional people of our own culture, and from other cultures less destructive than ours. I am speaking of the life of a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children; who has undertaken to cherish it and do it no damage, not because he is duty-bound, but because he loves the world and loves his children…" wrote influential environmental activist Wendell Berry in a book titled “The Unforeseen Wilderness: An Essay on Kentucky’s Red River Gorge” in 1971.

This passage is attributed to be the origin of that oft-repeated but unattributed quote: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children".

Simply said, what we are duty-bound to leave this Earth so that our children and children's children will enjoy what we have enjoyed and are enjoying. The way things are going, Boracay will not be there for our children's children to enjoy. In everything, balance has to be maintained, more so when we are selling nature-endowed destinations for our country's biggest employment and livelihood generator.

And this goes to every other tourist destination we are offering.
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