GIVEN the looming closure of Boracay Island, is Cebu City ready for the expected surge of tourists?
For Mayor Tomas Osmeña, Boracay’s closure for the next six months may not really have a big impact on the city. The mayor, though, was quick to clarify that mitigating measures still must be prepared, or Cebu might suffer the same fate as that of Boracay’s.
“I don’t think it will have a big impact. Maybe in Mactan, yes. But you know, we might have to put the limits to our rooms. We’ll become another Boracay,” he told reporters.
Boracay gained popularity locally and internationally because of its powdery white sand and turquoise water. But the influx of tourists visiting the island and the failure to enforce environmental laws, like requiring proper sewage systems, have caused it to suffer several environmental problems.
Last April 4, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the inter-agency task force on Boracay to close the famous beach destination for six months starting on April 26.
The recommendation was made by the task force composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Tourism, and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
The temporary closure is seen by the National Government as a short-term solution to address the environmental woes hounding Boracay.
Prior to the approved temporary closure, Duterte ordered a total clean-up of Boracay Island last February.
The President had threatened to arrest and file appropriate charges against local officials responsible for resort owners’ supposed defiance of environmental rules and regulations. He had also sought to place Boracay under a state of calamity to extend assistance to those who will be affected by the closure.
The movement of tourists to other beach destinations, including Cebu, is expected while Boracay keeps away tourists for half the year.
Boracay and Cebu were the top destinations in 2017 for South Koreans, the biggest group of foreign tourists in the country. Of the 6.62 million who visited the country last year, Koreans represented 24 percent at 1.6 million arrivals.
To ensure that Boracay’s environmental problems won’t happen in Cebu, Mayor Osmeña said setting limitations to buildings and room occupancy might help.
“That’s the truth of the matter. We have too many cars, too many people, and too many buildings. That’s why I like this four-story limit (on buildings),” he said.
Osmeña was referring to his earlier proposal to limit the maximum height available for developers to four stories.
“The problems we have today are associated with growth, but that’s better than no growth,” he added.