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On Boracay Island’s Closure: A Wake-Up Call for All Tourism Stakeholders

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The helter skelter decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to close Boracay island for its much overdue rehabilitation is certainly not a political stunt, and neither, simply to score political points. Despite the ensuing policy flaws in its implementation (until now all the concerned government agencies cannot put their acts together and come up with a “closure guidelines”), and yet, PRRD’s unilateral act to close the island for 6 months is morally right. It is a huge victory for the environment considering the years of blatant destruction and significant degradation of the island’s environmental and ecological systems by all the stakeholders involved in the islands tourism industry.

The unconditional and firm decision of the President to close the island, which will take effect on April 26, has indeed suckedthe oxygen out of the hotel-resort owners, business owner, travel tour companies and transportation companies. For decades, they have unconscionably profited out of the tourism industry at the expense of the environment. For them to complain in its sudden closure is clearly hypocritical and shameless.

To disingenuously pontificate that the locals will lose their only means of livelihood is appalling after having profited millions of pesos at the expense of the islands’ paradise pristine beauty and environment, which has been destroyed as a result of their insatiable greed for money. In fact, the temporary displacement of the workers, as it relates to their lost income, must be their responsibility. It behooves on these business establishments to employ them during the entire rehabilitation process and not for the government to give them some form of a dole-out.

In hindsight, these callous stakeholders, dumbo local and national politicians, incompetent and corrupt national and local bureaucrats should have fixed the island’s environmental problems years ago even before PRRD became the country’s president. For some, to posture now that the government has no policy planning and comprehensive plan in place for the rehabilitation process; that there should be a budget for the displaced employees and workers; and in their alternative world, proposing that it should be done by phase (as oppose to total closure of the island) is obnoxiously hypocritical on their part. On the contrary, the executive action of PRRD to close the island mirrors their corruption and incompetence – a kind of ineptness that even rises to a level of criminal negligence and recklessness that they should in fact be prosecuted. More repulsive is to insert politics in the equation, including, by some in the media, when environment encompasses social, moral and human rights issues. When what is at stake here is the country’s patrimony and cultural heritage, which ought to be secured, protected and sustained for the nation’s future generation.

Without a doubt the decision of PRRD is certainly wise, strategically speaking. Everyone will benefit from it. The massive rehabilitation would certainly save the small island’s fragile environment. It will help protect and sustain the island’s fragile ecosystem and natural habitat (both flora and fauna) and it will also ensure the health, safety, welfare and wellbeing of its local inhabitants and the millions of tourists. Globally and locally, rising like a phoenix from the ashes, it will enhance Boracay’s position as still one of the country’s premier tourist destination. Understand without this bio-and-eco-rehabilitation interventions, the current alarming environmental situation of this world-renowned island paradise (due to the lack of and absence of waste management system) and the kind of business model that these stakeholders have (i.e., sacrificing the environment for profits, profit over the tourists’ health, safety and welfare and profit over environmental protection); the demise of the island would have been a forgone conclusion.

The closure of Boracay is both a warning and a clarion call for all the tourism operators in the country to start initiating on their own the rehabilitation process of the endangered environment and ecosystem in their area of business operations. And germane to that, the social and moral components in an eco-tourism industry must also be addressed by them because behind the environmental destruction we also have the proliferation of illicit drugs, illegal gambling, sex trade and prostitution.

There is no question most of the tourism operators in our country, sadly abetted by the local and national agencies of government, poses a clear and imminent danger to the environment and natural ecosystem. Don’t wait for PRRD to act because in the broader perspective, he is clearly “locked and loaded” when it comes to protecting and sustaining the country’s environment.  His message is clear: there will be a price to pay and to bear if tourism operators will place the environment in harm’s way.  (By: Y. A. Joey Tugung | 04/15/18)




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