It all started when President Rodrigo Duterte lambasted the current environmental state of Boracay, the first name in local and international tourism when it comes to white-sand beaches in the Philippines, as being a festering “cesspool” brought low by over-development and non-stop tourist arrival. He had threatened to have the whole resort island closed permanently unless the businesses and residents there took action to clean up the place, though in order to implement that cleanup they must shut down operations of the resorts and business anyway. But a government official is unsure about the planned closure date and its timing.
As CNN Philippines tells it, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno has expressed his concerns that the proposal to totally close all establishments on Boracay Island by April 27, two weeks from now. In an interview he plainly stated that the date was “too soon” due to the fact that it would suspend business there at a time when tourist arrivals were at peak period, most especially on the May 1 Labor Day holiday when the beachgoers show up in hordes to celebrate “Laboracay”. The optimal closure period has been pegged as lasting six months, effectively making summer in Boracay a bust.
Speaking against the closure date, which was a joint recommendation from three executive departments no less – Tourism (DOT), the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – Diokno tried to call for a delay in the implementation, even pointing out that so far, none of the agencies tasked to rehabilitate Boracay’s condition have yet to present a finalized plan of action. “Do it at the off-peak period and then maybe gradually,” he said, “Before doing that, you have to have a plan already [that] is implementation-ready.” Diokno emphasized this lack of readiness to the closure and cleanup.
The Budget Secretary’s statements were reinforced by the Department of Trade and Industry, warning that such an abrupt shutdown of economic activity on Boracay short of the summer tourist peak season would wreak havoc not just on business but on the island’s residents, who claim that 36,000 jobs there were at risk during the six-month rehab period. To this end, the DTI have asked for the possibility of a phased rather than total shutdown of Boracay as a means of reducing the losses in revenue from establishments there, estimated at P18-20 billion according to DILG Asst. Secretary Epimaco Densing III.
Diokno however does not think the revenue loss of Boracay during cleanup is as dire as the DILG thinks. Already he has the Budget Department working on their own economic impact assessment, though for the moment he has opted not to publicize their in-house findings.
Photo courtesy of Philstar