It is with heavy heart to see the closure of Boracay on summer days – when the world’s roads are supposed to lead towards this crowning jewel of Philippine tourist destinations.
It is painful to see tens of thousands of Boracay residents losing jobs and livelihood in the next six months.
But it is more heart breaking to witness the exodus of people, leaving and wondering if they could find life outside the island that sheltered them for decades.
I arrived Boracay on April 25, a day before its official closure. The last time I was in the island was in summer of 1998. Back then, it was the golden era of this pristine paradise the world has ever known.
It was free from congestions. Its borax-like white sands were on their best condition. It was an era when the roaring waves were the lullabies to the heart and soul of human existence.
Fast forward 20 years, here I am sitting on the same white sand beaches. The differentiators – its people, patron, and places now face a bleak future. The life of its tourism industry is on its final breaths of survival. The once iconic paradise has turned itself into disgusting cesspool of garbage and waste.
While the closure could blatantly affect thousands and thousands lives, it is the only way that we could hasten the restoration efforts. It is truly hard and heart-breaking decision. But it is the only emergency procedure, the CPR, that is needed for this beautiful island to recover the fastest possible way.
Foremost on the clean-up list is to address the high coliform presence in the waters off Boracay island. The culprit of this problem is the drainage and sewerage systems.
The supposed flood control systems are plague with illegal connections from both residential and commercial establishments. Domestic solid and waste waters from kitchens, or toilets, among others, are flowing into the crystal-clear waters of Boracay – the same beachlines that host thousands of tourists 24/7.
There is a need to free these mazes of pipelines from illegal connections. This includes the cutting of illegal structures not compliant with environmental regulations.
The Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Tourism, and the Tourism Infrastructure Economic Zone Authority (TIEZA), among others are working together to implement the needed rehabilitation before this natural treasure will forever be drowned to the cesspool of eternal woes.
The roads that must be widen. The drainage and sewerage systems must be refurbished. Illegal structures that encroached beyond the lines allowed by laws must be demolished.
Soon the culprits will answer the hard and harsh realities of the law. But this is not the time of the blame game. Boracay is in the intensive care unit. It needs immediate, fast and efficient solution.
There is a need to implement temporary discharge pipeline in Bolabog while the DPWH and TIEZA rush to implement, and perhaps to shorten the completion of Phase 2 of the Boracay Drainage Improvement Project.
Phase 2, among others, targets to finish the construction of four more pumping stations and three sea outfall pipelines. The new outfall design extends to at least 800 meters to 1 km from the coastlines.
Boracay closure would be great woes on the lives of the island’s thousands of residents as well as the millions of tourists that visit it every year. It stands to affect more than 36,000 workers from the formal and informal sector. At least P50 billion in tourism revenues stand to loss from this incident.
So much have been said about, “What about the people?”, “What about the businesses?”, “What about the tourists?”, or “What about the economy?” But the government is taking the unpopular and unfamiliar road – to answer the question on, “What about the island itself?”
As the island takes its 6-month journey towards recovery, hundreds of volunteer-residents responded to the challenge, marching their way to the coast and inlands to cleanup what is remain of the small paradise of Aklan province.
For decades, we all have enjoy Boracay in one way or another. The closure is just 180 days. It is not too much to give to the island that for decades willingly gave and shared its benefits to us.
Boracay will come back. Surely, it will. Rising with the resurrection of its past splendors are the unsung heroes of the land – the volunteers that brave and believe that this small island could retain the glory of a lost paradise.