TEMPERING BORACAY expectations

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Like the mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes of decades of environmental despoliation, the island getaway that is Boracay had taken the first few tentative flights into regaining the splendor that once earned it the tag “Paradise on Earth.”

After a six-month rehabilitation ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte, the 1,000-hectare island was opened again to the public last 26 of October. On All Saints’ and All Souls’ day, it welcomed some 11,000 visitors, still well within its new carrying capacity cap of 19,200 visitors.

But whoever plans to visit Boracay to enjoy the sun, its powdery white beach and its turquoise water must temper his or her exuberance because as, in any continuing rehabilitation, the pride of Malay town in the province of Aklan still appears like the wounded creature that it still is.

With many restaurants and inns on the beachside closed for violating easement and other regulations like dumping untreated sewage into the sea, Boracay’s main attraction is peppered with buildings and structures being torn down.

The interior of the island looks like a war zone with the half-finished new main road and more buildings either being constructed or renovated.

But most tourists, local and foreign, had told the Daily Tribune that what mattered to them was the beauty of the beach and its waters following its rehabilitation.

With some water sports to be allowed once again like parasailing and banana boat rides, the New Boracay, as locals would like to call it, will retain its charm of offering a way to commune with nature while retaining some of its party spirit — just away from the beach, where drinking liquor is still prohibited.

Violators be warned as the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force has already fined several tourists, three for littering, seven for smoking and two for drinking on the beach.

Still another tourist was fined for making sandcastles, while another was issued a citation ticket for driving a motor vehicle to the beach.

The six-month closure of Boracay paved the way for Phase 1 of its rehabilitation with the environmental and tourism departments vowing to really put Boracay at the forefront of sustainable tourism with Phases 2 and 3.

Having seen what political will can do, the clamor now is for other Philippine tourism magnets, like Baguio City, to undergo rehabilitation — not so far as to close them — but to undertake drastic measures in terms of regulating activities and keeping tourists within the carrying capacity of any given area.

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