The Threat of Uncontrolled Tourism…signals the downfall of Philippines’ Last Hope

The Threat of Uncontrolled Tourism

…signals the downfall of Philippines’ last hope

By Apolinario Villalobos

Due to the unbecoming effort of the Philippines to become a prime tourist destination in Asia, it disregarded one important factor in this kind of industry – control of infrastructure. One glaring ruthless result of this is the virtual “rape” of Boracay Island. The tiny island fringed with white sand beaches is now suffering from the onslaught of the uncontrolled rise of 5-star hotels and resorts that resulted to the pollution of its water due to overflowing septic tanks. The once pristine and clear waters are now covered with layers of muck and algae.

What happened to Boracay can happen to any other touristic destinations around the country. The problem lies in the failure of the Department of Tourism to spearhead and advocate eco-tourism which is what the Philippines, as a third-world country, needs. The people behind the desks in the offices of the agency seem to have forgotten that not all tourists require luxurious hotels and resorts. These people thought that for a destination to be attractive, it must have 5-star luxurious facilities, that is why, they keep on encouraging investors to put these up in prospective and thriving destinations.

During the 70’s, “backyard tourism”, the precursor of “eco-tourism” has been advocated, primarily, by Philippine Airlines in cooperation with travel agents and the earlier eco-oriented personnel of the Department of Tourism. The idea was to give the opportunity of managing the needs of the tourists to the locals. In line with this, establishment of comfortable facilities, not the type of multi-storied hotels and expensive resorts, were encouraged. The backyard tourism was conceptualized to preserve the exemplar setting of the destination, thereby, preventing the drastic alteration of its landscape. Also, the locals are given the chance to show what the real Filipino hospitality is like. But those former people of the agency are gone, supplanted by another set of personnel with a different outlook.

With agriculture gone because of the once rice fields giving way to malls and condo buildings, slumping fishing due to the problem with China in the West Philippine Sea, denuding of forests due to careless logging, and exhaustion of mineral deposits due to incessant ventures of foreign stake holders, the only hope left is with tourism…but at the rate another form of abuse is going, the Philippines will be finally left with nothing else that can be seriously called “industry”, and which Filipinos can be proud of.

Backyard Tourism Industry

Backyard Tourism Industry

By Apolinario Villalobos

I will never tire of espousing backyard tourism industry, the kind of small-scale industry that could assure steady but controlled flow of tourists, but still assure revenue for residents of touristic destinations. This is the only way by which nature and culture can be saved, with their pristine attributes maintained without sacrificing the income. This venture does not need high-rise structures, noisy establishments, prostitutes and drug pushers that follow the heels of lascivious leisure seekers.

The mistake of most governments, especially, the third world countries, lies in their misunderstanding of tourism. For them, tourism is translated into 5-star hotels and resorts even in rural areas where tourist spots are located. There is nothing wrong with these structures, even with the convention centers. But they should be situated in urban centers. Towns and villages, should be left to their laid back setting, supported only with nature-friendly facilities that are comfortable enough to satisfy the needs of visitors.

If the commercial accommodation facilities of small towns, villages and cities are not enough, what may be offered are residences of locals as “hospitality homes”. This is then, how the locals can have their direct share of revenue. The local government can come up with a list of local residents who are willing to rent out one or two rooms of their home to visitors for a minimal fee. The offering can include a package of meals and guided sightseeing tour.

What happened to Boracay should be a lesson to us. The island has been spoiled beyond recovery. When I visited the island years ago, with the late and former Antique governor, Evelio Javier, the island’s beaches were practically sparkling with powdery white sands lapped by crystal clear water. Only quaint fishermen’s cottages sparsely dotted the beaches. Coconut trees and fruit trees filled the inland. Coral reefs teemed with marine life.

Today, Boracay island suffers as marine sports facilities continue to destroy its coral reefs, seepage from septic tanks of resort facilities give life to a destructive kind of algae, and worst, prostitution and drugs that have practically overran the entire island!

With the inception of the move to encourage the movement of citizens of ASEAN member-countries within the region, by easing restrictive measures on travel, there is a need for all governments concerned to take extra precaution. Tourism is the last hope for the region to recover from losses that resulted from the WTO dream-like promises which proved exploitive at the expense of third world countries like the Philippines, and the rest of the southeast-Asian countries, as well. In this regard, the governments of the southeast-Asian countries should be extra careful in their moves. Destruction of natural attractions by unrestrained building of facilities because of the selfish desire to expedite revenue generation is like killing the duck that lays the golden eggs!