BLIND SPOT: Life’s a Beach


“Pangit na ang Boracay. 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 the nationally popular beach spot last year. 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. According to the article, “Coastal Tourism in the Philippines: The Sustainability Challenge”, 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, near shore 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.” (oneocean.org) 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) After coming home from that same trip, a friend inquired about the truth of news reports of how Boracay beaches have become dirty. I shrugged the idea off by telling him that, naturally, I wouldn’t go to the community dumpsites, but would dip and roam around cleaner waters and watering holes. But I seriously allayed any concerns of flourishing of any filth, or at least that was according to my perspective. I’m no travel blogger or environmental expert, and have been there only once. I thought then that this could be one of those issues that media and some groups blow up for some ulterior motive; but here we are, “Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte approved the recommendation of the interior, environment, and tourism departments to close Boracay for 6 months to give way to its rehabilitation.” The shutdown starts on April 26; so 6 months would end on October. Oh man, that’s a very long time for a fire dancer or beach beads accessories vendor. Does the government have a back-up program for the small scale industries hwich would be victims of this seemingly noble rescue of an ecosystem? With due respect to the President, I am certain that Boracay is far from being a cesspool as he says it is. That would be an exceeding exaggeration. With due respect to environmental advocates, I still believe that inhabitants are far more important than the habitat; although it could be argued that the inhabitants could exit to extinction if the habitat expires, but what do you do with a holy habitat with hungry inhabitants? However, on the other hand, I was amazed when I was actually there; as hotel doors would be just an unbelievably mere few meters away from the water’s edge; and behind the hotels or restaurants is a strip of road of modest width for motor transportation, and across the road is a barricade of hotels and restaurants screening the view of tourists on actual residents who seem to have been lost in the oblivion in the obsession for the ocean. I just thought that it was clever of maximum utilization of physical space; but then again, something about it was quite unnatural. Now, taking into consideration Pasacao, Sangay, Caramoan, Misibis, Bagasbas, Donsol, maybe this phenomenon is a wake-up call that ecological regression and an entire community closedown is a reality; and an opportunity to tone down or fine tune environmental explorations while engaging into enterprise. “…the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:9