Boracay's bane
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - February 14, 2018 - 12:00am

When I first heard about the beauty of Boracay, I wanted to go there to see for myself what people were talking about. When I finally arrived, I was totally amazed at the beauty of the island. White, powdery sand, crystal-clear waters, and the silence of the area. Not surprisingly, Boracay has become a popular destination for tourists, both local and foreign. It quickly became a household name all over the world.

Fast forward to February 2018, where no less than President Duterte has described Boracay as a "cesspool," a most unflattering term for an island resort. According to Duterte, Boracay's waters stink of s**t. Supposedly, when tourists go for a swim, they eventually smell the human waste, my goodness. Duterte goes on to say that it will not take long before tourists stop going to Boracay. Who wants to swim in an ocean that smells like human excrement?

He blamed local officials, and threatened to sue them. They supposedly allowed the building of structures without proper sewage. Most establishments in Boracay empty their waste directly into the sea. According to the Department of Tourism, only 25 establishments of the 150 that have been inspected properly dispose of their waste. Duterte goes on to say that if the problems of Boracay are not fixed, he would close the island. He gave DENR Sec. Cimatu six months to fix Boracay. With the enormous number of tourists coming to the island, you can easily see how sanitation can become a major problem.

The people of Boracay welcome the initiative of the president to clean the island, but lament the "cesspool" tag. But the issue of Boracay's cleanliness is not new. In 2015, an increase in the presence of coliform bacteria prompted the government to tighten cleanliness standards. I have not seen any recent coliform bacteria measurements to back Duterte's "cesspool" tag. Is this another one of Duterte's "hyperbole"? Or do the waters of Boracay really stink of s**t?

Still, the DENR as well as the local government have their marching orders. Duterte's words may border on exaggeration, but if the problems are not resolved, he may have to close the island. Tourism would suffer on its own. If you were a tourist and you heard the President of the Philippines saying that Boracay's waters stink of s**t, would you still go?

It would be nice if the government had hard data to show that the waters of Boracay are indeed filthy. But this is the style of President Duterte. He can no longer take back his words. With social media being what it is, his words will definitely have an impact on the businesses and people of Boracay. Summer and the holidays are fast approaching. These are the "good" months for tourism and businesses, particularly the so-called "La Boracay" on Labor Day. Seriously cleaning up Boracay can only be a good thing, not only for the island but for its people. The DENR must make sure of that, because if they clean it, they will come.

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