Rehabilitating the environment

Opinion Sideglance

With Proclamation 475 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte the six-month closure of the world famous Boracay resort in the municipality of Malay, Aklan Province has begun.

This will pave way for the organized rehabilitation of the world class resort to forestall and prevent further environmental degradation brought about by the negligent and reckless development and modernization of the area. The proclamation itself highlights the gravity of the environmental situation since it declares the three barangays comprising Boracay – Barangay Manoc-Manoc, Balabag and Yapak- under a state of calamity which will require urgent and necessary measures to repair the damage done.

In a recent news report by a TV network it was revealed that even mangrove areas and estuary sites in that small island have been occupied by settlers gambling on the opportunity to make a fast buck from the hundred of thousands of foreign and local tourists who flock to the resort to enjoy the waters and get burned by the sun.

It was also reported that there might be several local government officials in Boracay who will be charged with either graft and corruption or willful neglect of duty for the resulting damage done to the environment in Boracay.

That the environment of the famous resort has been abused and exploited is already a given. It is now time to heal and mend what has been degraded and/or even destroyed. Those who are opposing the radical measure claim that the government will lose more than a billion pesos for the six month closure of Boracay. But better to lose a billion pesos right now and perhaps recover everything later than to lose Boracay forever.

On the other hand, what is clear is that a lot of people both in the private and public sector had taken advantage of the benefits, both legal and illegal, that could be obtained with the continued operation of the resort. This is why shops, bars, hostels, inns and even famous hotels have sprouted in that tiny island of Boracay and why so many of them forgot to even install basic drainage and sewage facilities that would have avoided polluting the pristine and clean waters of the island.

Now that it is closed these people that have taken advantage of the island should be replaced with those better inclined to obey and comply with environment protection guidelines. Those found to have violated local and national laws on environmental protection should be immediately charged for such violations and haled to court. This is the only way that the national government and President Duterte will be taken seriously in connection with the rehabilitation of Boracady.

I also agree that six months is a very short period of time to rehabilitate and repair whatever damage has been done to Boracay resort and if there is any other way to extend the closure period this should be seriously considered.