BLIND SPOT: Is summer swimming spoiling?
“Pangit na ang… Puro na kasi resort ngayon.” I heard this from a driver (of one of those novel passenger vehicles which is a cross between a tricycle and a jeep, which I’m not sure how to refer to), while having a vacation in a nationally popular beach spot. It got me thinking; maybe he wouldn’t be earning as much if it weren’t for the massive influx of tourists which ensures an availability of commuters 24/7. Oh well, you can’t please them all. It’s summer; and you all know how it goes. Filipino culture dictates and demands at least one trip to the beach or at least a water resort in summer with family and/or friends. Failure to do so seems to be a socio-cultural crime and makes one less of a Filipino. Nila Eslit writes in Wall Street International, “One of the best times to spend quality moments together is during summer, when kids are on school break and working adults take their vacation leave. Filipino families can always find a way to enjoy summer vacations together, regardless of their economic situation. After all, such time together doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.” (wsimag.com) This reminds me of the cliché scene in a Filipino comedy movie of the lead comedian in ludicrous behavior chasing the swimsuit clad female lead in the sand, which would culminate in a song and dance number in the beach by all the cast. According to the article, “Coastal Tourism in the Philippines: The Sustainability Challenge” (oneocean.org), the impacts of tourism on the environment and social settings of a coastal system include “accelerated beach erosion, deteriorating coastal water quality, dumping of solid waste on beaches or in near-beach areas, coral reef degradation through inadequate anchorage and landing facilities, salt-water intrusion, and increasing traffic noise and congestion” among other negative effects. It further notes that “In the Philippines… most coastal resorts are poorly planned with respect to the protection of those resources, namely coral reefs, nearshore water quality and clean beaches. Larger players such as international resort chains have only recently begun to implement more stringent environmental practices on their properties.” In a Philippine Star article, “Tourism and its Many Paradoxes” (2015), Lila Ramos Shahani writes, “It’s a long-standing dilemma: does tourism hasten or hurt development? Is it possible to balance the economic benefits brought in by hordes of visitors with the long-term needs of local residents, while protecting fragile natural resources from disappearing? What happens when we open the country up to touristic consumption? Does it create well-paying jobs while bringing in prostitution and human trafficking in its wake?” For specific details, “when coastal areas are converted into beach resorts, mangrove areas and corals that serve as fish sanctuaries are damaged or even completely removed. Carbon emissions and air pollution also significantly increase, as more air and land-based vehicles are needed to transport tourists from one destination to another.” (www.philstar.com) Shahani in the previously indicated article underscores the economic effects of beach outings as, “tourism has been able to create more jobs for the locals. In 2011 alone, the tourism industry created more than four million—11.1% of the country’s total employment. Interestingly, the tourism industry has created more jobs than the mining industry. The World Travel and Tourism Council projects that total contribution of tourism to employment will rise by 2.5% in 2015 to 4,338,000 jobs, and by 2.6% annually to provide 5,613,000 jobs by 2025.” (www.philstar.com) Additional positive economic effects are government revenues and foreign exchange earnings, A “study by Michigan State University revealed that living in a location where you have the chance to see a lot of blue spaces, like a body of water, leads to lower levels of “psychological distress.” “According to one of the co-authors, Amber Pearson, the reason for this is that the “brain can process natural backdrops better.” Turquoise colored environment “reduces sensory stimuli and promotes mental relaxation”. (www.travelandleisure.com) So, after all, the color blue doesn’t really make you feel blue. Seriously, this finding would make beach trips a necessity for the stress laden more work, less wink millennial society. On the socio-cultural perspective, “travelling brings people into contact with each other. As sustainable tourism has an educational element it can foster understanding between people and cultures and provide cultural exchange between guests and hosts. This increases the chances for people to develop mutual sympathy, tolerance and understanding and to reduce prejudices and promote the sense of global brotherhood.” (www.coastalwiki.org) Regardless of development, population at some pace would definitely increase. Take your pick between a pristine environment with untapped economic resources, and a disturbed ecosystem with a progressive social climate. “…the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:9