DOT optimistic Boracay visitors to increase, vows steps to improve water quality
MANILA, Philippines – Despite reports about the poor quality of water on Boracay Island, the Department of Tourism (DOT) remains optimistic that the number of tourists, both domestic and foreign, will continue to rise this year particularly this summer.
In 2014, visitor arrivals in Boracay at Malay town, Aklan reached 1.4 million, mostly domestic tourists, close to the department’s 1.5 million target.
According to Undersecretary for Tourism Development Benito Bengzon Jr, the bigger concern would be how to accommodate all those visitors on the Western Visayan island, which is considered the country’s top tourist destination.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has called attention last month to Boracay Island’s water quality after the agency’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) office in the Western Visayas detected high coliform bacteria levels in a drainage outlet which empties into the coastal waters of Sitio Bulabog.
The DENR-EMB attributed the high level of coliform in Boracay Island’s coastal waters, particularly in Bulabog Beach on the east coast, to domestic waste emptying into the sea from residential and commercial establishments not connected to sewer lines. Boracay’s main tourist area is on White Beach, on the west coast.
Nevertheless, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje has asked residents in the area, the stakeholders, to take steps to maintain the island’s status as a mecca for tourists and has sought the immediate completion of the sewerage improvement project to prevent pollutants from directly discharging into the water.
Tourism Undersecretary Bengzon said the department has not yet received a complete report on the water quality of Boracay Island. “What has been forwarded to us are initial reports on what appears to be problems with the quality of water in Boracay. But I would rather wait for a complete report to determine the steps to take,” he said.
Whatever the next steps would be, Bengzon said it would be crucial for DOT “to get the support of the local stakeholders and the local establishments because they have more stake than anybody else, more than the visitors or the tourists.”
He added, “The ones who really have the strongest or greatest interest in the island are the stakeholders and it is to their benefit that we make sure the quality of the water is always assured.”
Bengzon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the number of tourist arrivals on Boracay has not been affected by such reports, saying, “Boracay is such a strong destination that we expect the numbers to go up consistently.”
“The bigger issue,” he pointed out, “would probably be making sure that we achieve an optimum balance of visitors in the island so they do not go past the so-called carrying capacity.” The DOT’s tourist target for the island this year, just as in 2013 and 2014 remains at 1.5 million visitors.
In 2014, there were 682,832 foreign tourists and 745,266 domestic tourists on Boracay Island, bringing in some P27 billion of revenue. Last year brought over 60,000 more tourists compared to 2013 when there were some 1.36 million visitors on the island. Tourist receipts in 2013 was placed at P25 billion.
On average, nearly 4,000 people visited Boracay Island daily and about 119,000 tourists flocked to the island monthly in 2014.
Based on data from the DOT, in January this year, 133,598 tourists visited the island while last month, 130,293 visitors took a vacation there. The figures are higher than last year’s where there were 122,629 tourists in January and 118,096 in February.
From 2001 to the present, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the number of tourists and the revenue generated by their visit has steadily gone up. The PSA noted that most visitors of Boracay Island are Filipinos and that most foreign tourists hailed from Korea, Taiwan, China, and the US. It also found that visitor arrivals peak in the summer particularly in April, May and early June.
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