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‘Cesspool’ tag upsets Boracay residents

/ 12:52 AM February 12, 2018

HAZARDOUS WATERS These boys take a dip amid algal blooms in the hazardous waters off
Boracay in this photo taken in March 2017. According to researchers, the green algae feeds on
human waste coming from nearby establishments. —JILSON SECKLER TIU

Published:  7:11 p.m., Feb. 11, 2018 | Updated: 12:52 a.m., Feb. 12, 2018

Residents and business operators on Boracay Island are unhappy with President Rodrigo Duterte likening the world-famous tourist destination to a pit of human waste.

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But they welcome his directive to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to solve the sewage and garbage problem in Boracay in six months, or he would shut down the island resort.

“[C]alling the island a cesspool shows the President is probably misinformed of the nature and magnitude of the problems,” said a resident business operator, who asked not to be named to avoid reprisal from the President or his supporters.

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“Does he even think what will happen to the thousands of workers and their families who earn a living here if the island is closed down?” said the resident.

Another resident said the President’s hardline stance could move other officials to take action. “Maybe the governor, congressman and local government units will wake up.”

ALGAL BLOOMS While residents say algal blooms naturally occur every summer in Boracay, researchers link their presence to human waste coming from nearby establishments. —JILSON SECKLER TIU

Unfinished drainage system

A business leader said Boracay’s problems had worsened due to the inadequate support from the national government, citing the island’s drainage system, which had yet to be completed more than 10 years after the project started.

“What we need is less reaction and condemnation and blame. We need actual ideas, solidly researched and organized plans, and leadership that will do the hard things to ensure Boracay can get through current difficulties,” said another business leader.

In a speech during a business forum at the Marco Hotel in Davao City on Friday, the President said: “I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool.”

He said Boracay’s sewage and garbage problem was destroying the island’s ecosystem and posing a threat to the health of millions of visitors.

“There will be a time that no more foreigner will go there because … when he goes back to the plane, he will be full of shit going back and forth to the restroom,” he said.

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In illustrating how serious the problem was, the President said garbage was just 20 meters away from the beach.

“At a distance, you see white sand. But you go into the water, it’s smelly. Smell of what? Shit because everything that goes out in Boracay … it’s destroying the environment or the Republic of the Philippines and creating a disaster,” Mr. Duterte said.

Shame

Tourism officials affirmed the President’s assessment.

“It’s a shame that Boracay, which has repeatedly been recognized by prestigious travel magazines as the world’s most beautiful island, may yet end up a paradise lost if water contamination continues,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said in a statement.

Ricky Alegre, the Department of Tourism spokesperson, said a number of establishments were draining their sewage directly into the sea.

Of the 150 business establishments recently inspected by the government, only 25 were connected to the sewage line, he said.

Many establishments were also building too close to the beach and spilling over into the roads of the 1,000-hectare island, Alegre said.

That was why, Mr. Duterte said, Cimatu should solve the problem in six months. “I’ll give you six months. Clean the (fucking) thing.”

Task force

The President earlier approved the creation of a task force to deal with the problems in Boracay.

Cimatu himself had warned owners that their establishments on the island would be shut down if they were found releasing sewage into the sea.

He said a “a serious and honest-to-goodness crackdown” was needed to bring Boracay back to what it was—clean beach and unspoiled environment.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) earlier urged officials of Malay town, Panay province—
to which Boracay belonged—to require establishments and residents to connect to the island’s sewerage system to prevent untreated wastewater from flowing into the sea.

“It’s not just establishments, but even the houses of local residents are not connected to the sewerage system,” Jim Sampulna, director of the DENR in Western Visayas, previously said.

2M tourists

Sampulna said overpopulation was also a problem for the island-resort. Some 50,000, many of them workers, live in Boracay.

The island also hosts at least 2 million tourists yearly and brings in P56 billion in annual revenues, according to tourism department and industry sources.

As a result, the carrying capacity of the island has been exceeded since 2010, according to Sampulna. —With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil and AFP

/atm /pdi

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TAGS: Boracay, Philippine tourism, Rodrigo Duterte, Roy Cimatu, Wanda Tulfo Teo
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