The risk of being a popular destination is to be prone to exploitation. Case in point is Boracay Island. The island paradise faces closure due to sewerage problem and other environmental issues.

Boracay Island is one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines. White, powdery sand, turquoise water, and stunning sunset - these are but few of the adjectives that describe the island resort. Visitors call it an “Island Paradise” for all good reasons.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case anymore these days.

Well, the white and powdery sand is still there. And the stunning sunset you can still behold. But the turquoise water is no longer clean and safe for swimming and other water activities. Marine life is also at risk now. Recent inspections reveal that the seawater surrounding the island is contaminated with coliform bacteria. Human waste and kitchen runoffs go directly to the sea unfiltered. It was found that many of the business establishments and tourist facilities didn’t install a proper sewerage system.

Likewise, the natural surroundings on the island are indiscriminately altered. Rock formations are cut to give way to tourist facilities. Encroachment into forested areas and setting up of concrete structures in areas where they should not be are rampant. All these were done in the name of profit.

Change has come

Why did these anomalies happen? It’s not that there were no laws regarding environmental protection, sanitation, and other regulations. There are actually many existing laws. The problem was implementation. The past government administrations kept a blind eye and a deaf ear to the anomalies. They allowed unscrupulous businessmen to exploit Boracay Island for reasons only God knows what! Personally, I think it’s apt to say that corruption was the bottom line in all these anomalies.

But thanks to the present administration. Change has come! When President Rodrigo Duterte takes over the reins of government, he started by cleaning up the mess left behind by his predecessors. And one of the tons of issues he wants to be resolved is the problem of sanitation and environment abuse.

In a stern statement recently, Duterte threatens to shut down the tourist destination, which he now calls “a cesspool”. He’s remarkably angry at the lack of proper sewerage system and on the destruction of the forest and natural rock formations in Boracay. And did his threat awaken the concerned government units from their “deep slumber”!

Today, both the local and the national government agencies are on their feet. They’ve got to get working to rehabilitate Boracay at the time frame the President imposes. Otherwise, heads will roll and businesses will close. At least three government agencies are now discussing whether to totally or partially close Boracay Island from visitors for the time being of the rehabilitation. They have to consider two important things:

● Boracay Island receives an average of 15,000 visitors daily - both foreign and local. Most of them have booked their accommodation long before the issue of rehabilitation came up.

● Some of the business establishments are compliant with the sewerage, and environmental rules and regulations. It would be unfair for them to suffer from closure.

Nevertheless, whatever their decision be, the Filipino people, in general, welcome the move to rehabilitate Boracay now than later. It’s better to lose some tourism revenues now than to drive tourists forever. Boracay Island is not just a tourist destination. It’s a treasure that God has gifted the Philippines with. Aside from bringing cash to the national treasury, the island is a source of livelihood to hundreds of local people. And so, we must take care of the source of livelihood, not abuse it!

We are confident, though, that Boracay Island will soon get back its top spot on the tourism map when the rehabilitation is complete. In the meantime, I encourage visitors to explore other tourist destinations in the Philippines. The country has 7,641 islands, each of which offers a unique vacation experience.