Groups call for action as Boracay enters 'stagnation stage'

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Environmental advocates and urban planners have warned Filipinos against the environmental degradation of Boracay caused by congestion and over-development of the island.

The Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP) and Alliance for Safe, Sustainable & Resilient Environments (ASSURE) issued a statement on Thursday saying that Boracay is at its "stagnation stage."

The groups said island resorts like Boracay go through a life cycle or evolutionary process that all tourist destinations go through. Stagnation is the fifth stage of the life cycle before a resort reaches a decline or rejuvenation.

The groups released the statement amid reports that Boracay's waters and surroundings are being polluted because of untreated wastewater and improper solid waste management.

"That this is not the first time these conditions have been reported makes us deeply concerned with its potentially catastrophic impact on not only Boracay's tourism industry but more importantly on its residents' and visitors' health, safety and wellbeing," the groups said.

They acknowledged that slowing down tourism will affect the local economy but they warned that maintaining status quo has caused Boracay to "exceed the natural environment's capacity to cleanse itself."

"It is obvious that the island's burgeoning tourism growth is escalating the island's environmental degradation which inevitably will impact on Boracay's attractiveness as a prime tourist destination," the group said.

They pointed out that from only 229,509 tourist arrivals in 2000, Boracay received 1.7 million tourist arrivals last year.

"It therefore appears that, considering the rapidly increasing volume of visitors to Boracay, combined with the weak management of its environment, the capacity of the island to sustain its residents' and businesses' health, safety and wellbeing is under serious threat of being exceeded and thus may subsequently result in decline," they said.

Among the actions suggested by PIEP and ASSURE are:

Strict enforcement of existing environmental and sanitation ordinances; Installation of wastewater treatment facilities and connection to a sewage treatment plant by establishments and residences; Promotion of ecologically responsible behaviour; and Assessment of the ecological carrying capacity of the island.