BORACAY…a case of abused tourism
By Apolinario Villalobos
I was tempted to use the title, THE RAPE OF BORACAY”, but on second thought, I opted to use the subtle, “abuse”…
More than five decades ago, Boracay was a pristine island with sugary-white fine sands and littering the shores, were bleached to whiteness corals and sponges. The shores were sparsely dotted with lean-to shelters of fishermen. During the 70s, the puka and heshi shells were discovered by enterprising locals and made them into exotic bracelets and necklaces. Soon enough, its shores got pockmarked with diggings that were as deep as three feet down. The accessories and jewelries from the stringed shells were so much in great demand in Europe, that many villages as far as Tablas island of Romblon became engaged in this “cottage industry”. That was the time when I came to this part of the archipelago as a new recruit of Philippines….and I saw them all.
From where we stayed, Alcantara and later Looc, we would wait for calm seas under the full moon during which we would venture out to Boracay on pump boats, stopping for a short sojourn on the Carabao Island which was along the way.
Philippine Airlines through its Tours and Promotions Office was advocating some kind of a “backyard tourism” in which local residents were encouraged to accommodate incoming tourists in their homes or put up simply- furnished cottages preferably made of local materials, especially, bamboo. That was what we counseled the local officials of Aklan which has a jurisdiction over Boracay, every time we were invited during their tourism-related seminars. That was what the late Governor of Antique, Evelio Javier also advocated. He proudly guided me around Boracay despite my having told him that I had made previous visits to the island when I was assigned in Tablas station of Philippine Airlines.
A few years later, resorts that started with two or three cottages were built, followed by bigger structures, until in so short a time, the whole island literally got covered with modern accommodation facilities. Septic tanks leaked with the waste flowing to the sea encouraging the growth of algae. Prostitutions reached its peak as practically, the island throbbed with activities for 24 hours….drugs followed.
Where did the revenue of the touristic facilities, with some owned by foreign investors go? Part of it of course found their way to the maintenance and wages. But does the remaining chunk, ever find its way to the local banks or are there any other investments in other parts of the province for tangible projects?…or siphoned to the investors’ banks in Manila and later diverted to their home country!
Practically, Boracay has been “raped” by investors as what happened to islands mined of their natural wealth such as black sands, copper, nickel, etc. The colonies of bacteria from the septic tanks that flowed into the shallow waters of Boracay shall be there forever…as manifested by the thick growth of algae washed to the shores every morning.
It took a guy with a firm resolve from a guy, Rodrigo Duterte to put a stop to the abuse of tourism that has destroyed Boracay. It is a shame that what he did could be done by local officials but they did not lift a finger….a big question that they, themselves, can answer!