House panel backs temporary closure of Boracay

MANILA The House of Representatives' tourism committee on Wednesday expressed support to the proposal to temporarily close the island of Boracay to address the issue of discharging untreated waste water into the beach.

The island's temporary closure is among the recommendations contained in its committee report on regulating tourist spots to promote sustainability.

In a press conference, committee head Lucy TorresGomez said that while there is shortterm economic collateral damage that comes with closing Boracay's doors to incoming tourists, more weight should be given on the longterm viability and sustainability of tourism in the island.

TorresGomez said the island brought in PHP60 billion in tourism receipts in 2016, and a closure would then result in monthly losses estimated at PHP5 billion.

"With a heavy heart, the Chair would like to convey deep empathy to those who will be affected by such a temporary closure. Temporary closure may be likened to a bitter pill that needs to be taken in order to cure the symptoms and causes of a nagging disease," she said.

She said the problem of waste water dumping is an ecological disaster, a major health hazard, and a serious threat to the tourism reputation and brand of Boracay.

The tourism panel chair also stressed the need to address the issues of lack of enforcement powers of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), as well as the failure of enforcement of existing laws and regulations by the Malay local government units and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

As for the longterm solution, TorresGomez called for the swift passage of the proposed Philippine Sustainable Tourism Act, which seeks to require the convention of a Philippine Sustainable Tourism Council consisting of representatives from various sectors.

"It is incumbent on us, lawmakers and citizens of today, to take the longterm perspective. Fixing Boracay now, however painful, is plainly necessary," TorresGomez said.

She also called for an interagency coordination among DENR, DILG, Malay LGUs, Department of Tourism, and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, in formulating strategic and measurable courses of action, which would then form the basis of the declared time period for closure.

The proposed oneyear closure of Boracay was recommended by an interagency task force headed by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu.

Source: Philippine News Agency

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