Degradation happening in Boracay is happening everywhere in the Philippines

I overheard someone say the other day, “What happened to Boracay is enough to make you feel ashamed to be called a Filipino”. Some of you may feel outraged over that statement. After all, Boracay is not the Philippines. Or is it?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recently described Boracay as a cesspool – faeces and other human waste are literally floating around some tourist hotspots, particularly the beach. A lot of the restaurants, hotels and other businesses dump sewage waste directly into the sea due to a lack of adequate waste management infrastructure on the island:

The Environment Ministry said a total of 300 businesses faced “evaluation” for sanitary or other offences on the 1,000-hectare (2,470-acre) island, of which 51 have already been handed official warnings for violating environmental regulations.

Many of these businesses are accused of using the island’s drainage system to send untreated sewage into the sea, officials said.

It seems Boracay has become a man-made disaster. One wonders why the locals did not raise a stink years ago when the problem was still manageable. It is really baffling why some people can allow a problem to fester to a level that could actually threaten their very existence.

Poverty is not an excuse for the locals to allow capitalists to wreak havoc on their tiny island. Boracay is supposed to be their sanctuary – their home. They were supposed to protect it. Protecting one’s territory should be instinctive. One doesn’t need to be highly-educated to do that. Locals should have demanded opportunists and tourists alike to treat their home with respect.

Presumably, most business owners are educated and should care enough to look after the once-pristine island especially since they profit from it. Sadly, the remarkable beauty of Boracay, which is the reason why it was frequently voted one of the best holiday islands in the world in the past, was not enough to compel these Filipinos to respect and maintain it. That is a shame. That says a lot about us as Filipinos.

A wise man put it more succinctly:

What happened to Boracay is simply a manifestation of the Filipinos’ business prowess: Unimaginative, solely profit-driven, and a squatter mindset which killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Boracay has been milked dry for all it’s worth. Time to find a new spot to ruin.

President Duterte has given the authorities six months to “clean up the goddamn thing” under a threat that he will shut down the island. Wouldn’t it be nice if Duterte gave the same ultimatum to all the local authorities in the entire country? What happened to Boracay is a microcosm of what happened or is happening everywhere in the Philippines. Manila, anyone? One can be forgiven for saying that the capital city itself has also become a cesspool. It is a fact that Manila is located in a flood plain. Authorities ignored this fact and continued to overdevelop, resulting in overcrowding. Zoning has been completely ignored too. The city gets flooded following the slightest drizzle. Again, lack of planning is to blame for this disaster called Manila.

A similar thing happened to Baguio City. The place is now overcrowded and looks worse for wear. The mountains have lost their Swiss-like ambiance no thanks to overdevelopment. The abundant pine trees of decades ago are slowly getting chopped down giving way to badly-designed houses. It would be nothing short of catastrophic when the earthquake-prone city gets hit with a magnitude seven. Apparently, the same thing is happening to Tagaytay City. Overdevelopment is ruining the place just like how it ruined other once-beautiful places in the Philippines due to lack of planning and foresight. We can be sure that other places in the country that will soon get discovered and turned into tourist hotspots will suffer the same fate wherever greedy local government officials and businessmen shake hands.

What has become of Philippine society? Or has it always been like this? It seems Filipinos in general do not want to be interrupted when having a good time. The locals and party-goers in Boracay did not want to be bogged down with the details of how the sewage system works even when the sea was becoming murkier and flood waters started creeping up. They turned a blind eye to a flawed system – both in governance and in the management of waste. The same thing is happening everywhere in the country.

Most Filipinos do not care about how rotten the system in the country has become. This includes the voting system. Even when there was evidence of vote tampering and fraud in past elections, a lot of Filipinos still don’t pay attention to the cries of the few who were calling out anomalies. They would rather not know even when democracy and their freedom to choose their leaders are under threat.

What will it take for Filipinos to wake up? It seems Filipinos are like children. They need someone like Duterte to tell them what to do. It had to take Duterte to get mad over the state of Boracay before authorities took notice. To be fair, there were already a few people who were trying to raise awareness about the problem in Boracay years ago like Nennette Aguirre-Graf:

Nennette Aguirre-Graf, president of Boracay Foundation Inc., said the island’s drainage system was designed for flood control, but some residents and establishments use it to dispose of wastewater and sewage.

The drainage is easily accessible because some of its sections were unfinished and the drainage canals are just made of hollow blocks, said Graf.

She added that her organization had been calling on the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), which built the drainage system, to address the problem for 8 years now.

Her claim is proof that previous governments particularly the BS Aquino government did not do anything to stop the sewage problem from going from bad to worse. And it is further proof that BS Aquino is the worst President the Philippines ever had. He pretended everything is doing A-Okay in the country. Duterte should be commended for acknowledging the problem and demanding that swift action be mounted to save Boracay and the tourism industry. Some were quick to say that his words were condemning the island and could drive tourists away. But why invite guests before cleaning the house? That would be disrespectful.

It is time for Filipinos to respect themselves and their visitors by taking care of their environment and being vigilant against people who mock the system and try to destroy the country with their greed. That is the only way to become proud as a Filipino.

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