There’s an incredible chain of tropical islands in the Pacific that is sprinkled with pink, white and black sand beaches, ultra-relaxing luxury resorts, charming countrysides and villages, exotic foods and an enticing nightlife. READ FULL STORY
Tag archive for "Boracay"
By Ana Maria Lykes
THERE was once was a fair maiden who lived on the edge of Panay Island. She was so pure that sea creatures fearlessly sunbathed on her bosom. Her eyes were so pristinely blue that mystical fishes swam in them. Then came enterprisers and explorers, plundering her bounty and beauty. More and more of them came, crowding her and driving away the wondrous creatures. Her sighs are drowned out by loud chatter and merriment.
Will we ever hear Boracay’s song again?
“She’s sinking,” laments a local as bikini bunnies with henna tattoos and hair braids chitter past. These women aren’t the only ones overwhelming Boracay. Last year over 1.36 million tourists have trampled her white sands, leaving trash and destruction. Then there’s the mushrooming of establishments pushing too close to her shores. McDonald’s and Starbucks sit as shamelessly as the scantily-clad sunbathers on the beach. Construction is limited with a 25-meter setback, but many structures are sitting happily by the water.
“If more and more establishments are put up here, there will be no more open spaces left. We will lose Boracay,” airs Glenn Sacapaño to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The Task Force Redevelopment head and Island Administrator complains about the fast-paced and almost mindless development. The continuous expansion in Boracay doesn’t follow any urban planning and now narrow roadways and lack of parking are also troubling the island.
Overdevelopment is not the only thing that the island is facing. The country’s pride is postcard pretty, but what many do not see is the dirt that she hides. Boracay is overcome by trash and flooding. According to reports, the sewage system is constantly clogged and even on some sunny days, the poorly built roadways are flooded. On the seafloor, irresponsible fishermen and thoughtless tourists leave a boneyard of coral reef stumps at their wake.
And while many marvel at her skirt of gloriously white sands, they are unaware that she is quickly eroding due to climate change, reckless constructions, and irresponsible tourism. The erosion is so severe in certain parts of the island that sewage pipes have been exposed.
Eventually this can lead to even more serious problems as leakage can gravely contaminate the island’s water. Acute gastroenteritis is already becoming one of the leading illnesses of Boracay due to water contamination.
She mourns her denuded shoreline, cleared of her beloved coconut and palm trees. Overhead, fruit bats are skittering nervously, facing extinction due to the frenzied noise from the nonstop parties and construction.
Amidst all the noise, there are a handful who hears her call. Reaching out a helping hand, the President had mandated a redevelopment plan for the island. The Presidential Task Force, composed of representatives from the Department of Tourism, Department of Justice, Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, and Department of Interior and Local Government, in cooperation with the local government unit of Malay town and the Department of Public Works and Highways, is enforcing the demolition of illegal structures that do not comply within the 30-meter easement regulation or do not have Environmental Certificates of Compliance. About 300 illegal structures, including seawalls and embankments, are expected to be closed down and demolished.
The program does not seek to shut down the thriving tourism completely and has reassigned areas for business. Over 123 hectares have been allocated to new investors, spreading the concentration of commercial zones to other areas. A comprehensive land use plan was designed to accommodate at least 2 million more visitors by 2018. New ports and roads will be constructed with the help of the Philippine Tourism Authority and a PhP200-million investment. Manila Water is also working to improve the water and sewerage system.
Aside from government efforts, private organizations are also pitching in. The Sangkalikasan cooperative launched the Code Blue project to revive the island’s coral reef system by planting 5,000 “reefbuds” on Boracay’s ocean floor. Code Blue is said to be the most extensive artificial reef project in the Philippines so far.
This year the non-profit organization Boracay Foundation Inc. launched the Coral Reefurbishment Project to protect and restore coral reefs. It has also launched a mangrove rehabilitation program through massive tree planting. Mangroves help prevent erosion and improve water quality by filtering sediments. The non-profit organization is involved in many programs including environmental forums and regular beach clean ups in their mission to preserve and restore their beloved paradise.
Mangroves grow extremely slow, and it will take years for the coral reef to recover, but even then, Boracay can never go back to its former glory. Back when, according to many wistful locals and the few nostalgic purists who had the privilege of walking on her then uncorrupted shores, there were only a handful of cottages that stood on the beach, illuminated by gas lamps and a thousand stars. This was back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when beautifully dark- skinned Atis, the first settlers in the island, played on her sands truly white as snow.
It was in the 1800s when Aklan locals Lamberto Tirol and Sofia Gonzales discovered the island and cultivated her with coconut trees, tobacco, and marijuana. But the marijuana was for medicinal purposes. Back then the intoxication was to be had from her untainted beauty.
In the ‘70s, Hollywood set foot on the island, shooting Too Late the Hero and opening the doors for foreigners. Before that Boracay was a backpacker’s best guarded secret. Jens Peter, a German writer, also wrote a book introducing the virgin to the world as the most beautiful island in Asia. Before long, people were coming in droves to feast on her.
But just like scarred women, she is beautiful and remains to be one of the world’s most admired jewel. The New York Times may have called her “a tropical convenience store fully stocked with jet skis, resort pools and hangovers”, but many are willing to overlook that because she still maintains corners and curves that allow her children to bask in the blessings of the sun in peace.
She continues to be hailed as one of the most romantic islands in the world and one of the top islands by Travel + Leisure. Not surprisingly, she is also part of the magazine’s top 10 party beaches. Trip Advisor and other travel authorities constantly praise her. But all that acclaim means nothing to her. When the blaring music continues till dawn and the sun paints a rosiness on her horizon, she endures to sing her haunting pleas that only a few could hear.
Three beaches in the Philippines landed on CNN’s “100 Best Beaches” list. These are Palaui Island in Cagayan Valley (No. 10), El Nido in Palawan (No. 14) and Puka Beach in Boracay (No. 84). CNN cites Palaui’s “raw beauty’, calls El Nido “the gateway to adventure”, and bills Boracay “a tropical paradise”. READ FULL STORY
The Philippines’ once pristine island of Boracay has become extremely overdeveloped, with its famous beach now choked by sewage and too many bars, the country’s new tourism minister said.
In an interview with the news agency Agence France-Presse on July 9, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim suggested it was time tourists visited equally beautiful beaches in the country other than Boracay, which the government said drew 650,000 tourists last year.
“If you go to Boracay you’d love the beach, you’d love the night life and the good restaurants. But it’s so dense, it’s so dense,” Lim said.
“It is now, you know, too commercial. It’s become Phuket,” he said, referring to the much larger Thai beach resort island.
Lim, who joined President Benigno Aquino’s cabinet when it took power on June 30, said the 10.3 square-kilometer (four square-mile) central Philippine island of Boracay was a different place a generation ago.
The sprawl that followed the tourist dollars caused the seawater off the four-kilometer (2.5 mile) white-sand beachfront to sprout algae, which was fed by sewage from the hotels and restaurants, he said.
“Thirty years ago they tried to set the rules but they were not successful. The local government did not cooperate… so people started overbuilding,” Lim said.
“Of course, bad sewage — that’s why (you are seeing) algae at certain times of the year. It’s green. It’s the result of the sewage seeping out. The algae there is not yucky, it’s moss. Maybe fish eat it. But it’s an indication that there’s a problem below the surface.”
Asked if the problem, which first made world headlines in the mid-1990s, had been solved, Lim said: “I’m not sure. I don’t think so, that’s why at certain times of the year the algae forms.”
Lim said environmental and zoning regulations were not being enforced, leading to structures even being built inside the high-water mark.
“And they continue to build. They’re building huge hotels in the mountains.”
Lim suggested the government may in the end be unable to halt overdevelopment.
“We have world-class laws but nobody follows them,” he said, adding tourists may just have to look elsewhere.
“The thing about Boracay is the quality of the sand, (it is) very white. But there are other places that have better quality sand, but (they are) very expensive,” Lim said. (Agence France-Presse)
Although the Philippines brands itself as a destination of more than 7,000 islands, tourism industry investors have until recently focused most of their energy on the tropical island paradise of Boracay.
Discovered by backpackers in the 1980s, the small island in the Western Visayas that boasts long stretches of spectacular white-sandy beaches has become the country’s most developed tourism location, attracting more than 60 percent of the country’s foreign leisure travelers. In 2007 it attracted more than 600,000 visitors, 8 percent more than in 2006.
In contrast to the rest of the country, Boracay, with a capacity of over 2,000 rooms, caters to both luxury and budget segment travelers, and is well served by local airlines.
However, there is now consensus among local tourism insiders that Boracay has reached its saturation point and may lose its paradise appeal if it tries to accommodate larger volumes of visitors.
“Boracay is not like Bali in Indonesia. It is quite a small island that cannot expand to accommodate large numbers of visitors,” a local tour operator told OBG. The focus of tourism authorities is now on diversifying the country’s hospitality product range in order to reach the declared target of 5 million visitors by 2010. Although efforts have been made to promote alternative destinations, Boracay nevertheless continues to dominate the Philippine tourism industry.
Only Cebu has arguably managed to compete with Boracay. Established as the new gateway to the Visayas, the island enjoys a strategic geographical location, offering both an international airport and an array of small virgin islands off its coast The island hosted nearly 1.5 million visitors in 2007, 19 percent more than in 2006. However, it is important to note that most of these were business travelers. Cebu’s product range is much more limited than Boracay’s, as it is focused primarily on the high-end segment epitomized by such lavish international accommodation as Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa. It has also marketed itself successfully as a new destination for convention, diving and heritage tourism.
The new wave of travelers to the Philippines is most likely to come from mid-range budget travelers, supported by aggressive expansion of low-cost airlines; rising incomes in Asian countries, such as China; and an increase in long-haul travelers from Scandinavia, Germany and, most recently, Russia.
Indeed, the Philippines has been experiencing high growth in travelers from all over the globe. Most significantly, visitors from China rose by 194 percent from 2006 to 2007, as well as by 34 percent for visitors from Europe and 28 percent from the US. Overall growth has remained in the high single digits throughout 2008.
Yet, this falls short of some 600,000 new arrivals the country needs to attract to stay on track for its 2010 arrival target.
The industry as a whole shares the common problem of a lack of transport connectivity and local infrastructure that can cater to new arrivals. In the absence of prerequisite infrastructure guarantees, investors hesitate to put their money in new tourism destinations.
The World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report released in 2008 ranked the Philippines 86th in the world behind its regional rivals Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, due to low marks for infrastructure and business environment. This is in spite of its ninth ranking in terms of price competitiveness and high potential in human resources for the hospitality sector.
While there is no lack of recognition that the country urgently needs to upgrade its infrastructure, opinion seems to diverge on which tourist areas should be prioritized. Big-ticket spending has so far been limited to expanding the capacity of Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, expected to become the main gateway for the country as a whole. However, this will not necessarily improve access to regional islands, the primary destination for foreign travelers. A majority of regional airports that are key to tourism expansion are still unable to accept larger international aircrafts, thus constraining growth and further investment.
A case in point is Palawan, which in 2007 was rated the best island destination in Southeast Asia by National Geographic Traveler magazine. It has long been considered the hottest new alternative to Boracay, offering pristine tropical nature, unique World War II shipwreck dives and white sandy beaches.
Palawan’s attractiveness as a new tourism investment destination was confirmed by Singapore-based Banyan Tree Holdings, which announced earlier in 2008 that it will invest approximately $70 million in two new resorts in Palawan. A number of local investors who have succeeded in Boracay are also targeting Palawan as the next big destination in the Philippines.
However, Palawan’s most attractive location, Coron—which has some of the best scuba diving in the world and is the site of one of Banyan Tree’s new resorts—is still served only by a handful of small low-cost airlines that fly between Manila and Coron’s Busuanga airport.
Thanks to active investment interest and help from regional authorities, the airport has recently seen its basic infrastructure upgraded in order to accommodate larger aircrafts. Yet international connectivity will remain limited as long as the airport is unable to handle a larger volume of traffic. Seats on smaller aircrafts often sell out, and flight schedules are not necessarily convenient for international visitors coming through Manila.
Even the popular Boracay, which enjoys several daily flights and more convenient flight schedules, is limited to smaller aircraft, constraining its flow of visitors.
As one local tour operator told OBG, “The development of the Philippine tourism industry is currently driven not by demand, but by capacity. If you remove the transport and infrastructure bottlenecks, investors will come and visitors will come.”
In particular, the country needs to further the growth in regional tourism from countries such as China, Japan and South Korea, which accounted for around 50 percent of visitors in 2007.
The onus is therefore on central and regional authorities to upgrade the Philippines’ infrastructure so as to diversify its tourism sector. This is necessary if the country is to break into the fast lane of the growing regional tourism market.
By Oxford Business Group
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