Get well soon, Boracay!

BORACAY — consistently ranked as one of the best islands and beaches in the world, as it has been voted to the top many times by travelers worldwide.

For me, Boracay is personal. This tropical paradise has been so much a part of my family’s history. That is why the news that Boracay will be closed for six months to rehabilitate is like me getting a news that a family member is sick and would have to go to the hospital for surgery and recovery.

Beginning April 26, Boracay will shut down and will no longer accept tourists and visitors for six months. Only local residents will be allowed on the island. Checkpoints will be manned by police officers and soldiers have already been set up at piers make sure this is strictly followed, or hefty fines will be imposed.

While marine scientists say it may take more than six months to fully rehabilitate the island, in fact, they say Boracay needs 300 years to fully recover from the deterioration resulting from environmental abuse, President Rodrigo Duterte’s bold and decisive move will serve as an impetus toward the island’s healing.

As ABS-CBN news reported, even compliant establishments will be covered by the closure. The government will also demolish some 900 structures within the 30-meter shoreline easement or no-build zone, including those in wetlands and forest lands.

The worsening problem of pollution that has been damaging the ecosystem of the island has also been caused by illegally connected sewers and pipelines that have been discharging waste to inland streams, according to a report of ABS-CBN News.

Eeeewww… I know…All these problems really need a major “surgery” that will take some time to correct and for businesses to be made compliant with health, safety and environmental laws and regulations.

This diagnosis of Boracay is so unthinkable during my first visit to this island in 1992. While there had already been a few small local businesses and tourists as early as the 70s, my first Boracay experience had given me a benchmark by which I compare all other beach destinations in the Philippines and around the world.

The pure fine white sands that felt cool even during tanghaling tapat…. The clean, crystal clear sea water where my kids got to snorkel and play with different kinds of fishes just a few steps away from of the bahay kubo style beach houses… The coconut trees, tropical plants around the island, the bountiful fresh seafood, the clean fresh air, the blue sky, the sun and the moon and the stars, the famous Boracay sunset… I could go on and on as I reminisce how Boracay was almost 30 years ago.

My family would go back to the island almost every year since then. I was also privileged to produce the program “Tatak Pinoy” for ABS-CBN cable channel and my staff featured the island in all its glory. This yearly sojourn just stopped when we immigrated to the United States in 2001.

In 2009, my family had the chance to go on a vacation to the Philippines and we went back to Boracay. What a difference eight years made. My husband and I went back again just last January, and it pained us to see how all the more crowded, commercialized, noisy and dirty the island has increasingly been through the years.

Truly, the local government of Aklan, as well the national government, had failed in protecting this beautiful island.

This solution ordered by Duterte, however, makes me think of the business owners and the ordinary people of Boracay and nearby towns who live by the income they get from the tourism industry of Boracay. Six months is a long time not to have a source of income. Setting aside the issue of a big casino that is reported to be built in the island, doing nothing is NOT an option, or the island of Boracay will cease to live.

GET WELL SOON, Boracay. We have made a lot of memories as a couple, as a family in your paradise. I hope to bring my grandbabies to you someday, so that they, too, will experience nature at its best as we knew it then.

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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