Thursday, April 25, 2013


Load Capacity of Boracay


I was in Boracay with our three granddaughters last April 11. We were in high spirits. We anticipated the simple pleasure of beating the summer heat and basking in the sugary white sand. We elbowed ourselves through tourist lounge of Caticlan Jetty Port. We arrived Station 1 at 8:00 o’clock A.M. Immediately, we scouted for a comfortable spot to tuck away our food provision and handy bags.

A number of foreigners and local tourists including children were already bathing in the area. We joined them savoring the moment of bonding and togetherness. Gentle waves and breeze were therapeutic, relieving physical and emotional stress. Turquoise eatery expanse held a number of moored Roll On Roll Off (RORO) vessels, speeding boats and sailboats.

However up North, a different scenario took place. The whole beach area was practically deserted. Reason is that Balabag beachfront is littered with filamentous green algae or “lumot”. Local folks attribute algae bloom to cyclical onset of summer but this year seems the worse. Only sites that are spared of this anomaly are those in Yapak and Manoc-manoc where water current and wind velocity is pretty strong. 

It appears that Balabag shoreline has dense algae cover due to high concentration of dissolved nitrogen in seawater. This is abetted by intense sunlight and the absence of fin fishes that utilize them as food. Concentration of filamentous green algae extends at least 30 meters from the shoreline making the beach unsightly and hazardous for bathers. 

Ironically, the Local Government Unit of Malay under Mayor John Yap has been amassed to minimize the environmental pollution. A periodic clean up drive say once a week could be undertaken by dragging a beach seiner to collect the lumot (algae). This could be decompost and turned into fertilizer. Otherwise, this will jeopardize the island’s reputation as the most beautiful island tourist destination in the world. 

The Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) according to Ms. Merelene B. Aborka, OIC, CENRO officer Kalibo has started a study on carrying load capacity of Boracay in 2011. Parameters include water supply component against population and geological characteristics that include underlying soil and rock formation gauged against man-made physical structures and population. The only problem is that this may take several more years before the findings and report of the study are concluded.

Environmental degradation of Boracay is getting serious every year as population surges. The same holds true for business establishments and high end tourists resorts. Ms. Rudelyn R. Panadero, Statistician II, National Statistics Office revealed Aklan has 1.73 percent annual population growth between 2000-2010 while Malay registered 6.45 percent during the same period. In 1980 Malay has a population of only 9,126. Today it has 27,201 registered voters, the highest among the municipalities in Aklan. 

It is not only interesting but hurting to note that majority of population are living below the poverty line and recipients of 4 P’s.

Boracay Island Corporation (subsidiary of Ayala) which manages the water and sewerage treatment plant in the island since the last decade can be simply overwhelmed by runaway population increases and commercial growth. Rational demand for water quality, low cost housing, proper waste disposal and credible land use plan all point to decongesting the island back to the 1980 level. 

This means massive relocation of transients and business establishments not in any way linked to tourism. LGU Malay should be in the forefront in the implementation of a low cost housing project equipped with service facilities and livelihood opportunities in the mainland Aklan. 

In 2012, provincial tourists reached 1.2 million with earnings of P20 B according to the Department of Tourism. The target of doubling this figure in 2016 appears uncertain as carrying load capacity of Boracay has been reached or about to be. It is now in the “law of diminishing return”. This also means that other tourism sites in mainland Aklan be developed as alternative location. The big question remains: must Aklanon follow the path of greed or principle of conservation? How can Malay LGU and Aklan LGU cajole non Aklanon investors to comply with the laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations in Aklan? Cryptic handwriting on the wall is that Boracay is weighed in the scales and found wanting.  /MP  

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