SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 20 January 2022, Thursday |

Tourism pause helps Philippines clean up island paradise

The beaches on the popular Philippine island of Boracay have never been cleaner, and the sea has never been clearer, according to Samuel Garilao, a 23-year-old tour guide.

Garilao grew up in Boracay, which is a tiny but over-developed island that struggles with a trash problem so severe that President Rodrigo Duterte closed it down in 2018, calling it a “sewer pool.”

However, with the Philippines essentially cut off from the rest of the world owing to the coronavirus and domestic tourism closely controlled, Boracay has had an unique opportunity to heal.

“When the lockdown started, we saw less trash because there were no tourists coming in. And the local residents of Boracay decided to take this time to unite and clean up the beach front,” Garilao said.

Duterte’s six-month closure of the island had done little to fix Boracay’s problems.

Two million visitors came in 2019, bringing $1 billion in revenue, and a return of garbage pile-ups, rampant land encroachment and thick fumes from constant traffic along its narrow, clogged roads.

Natividad Bernardino, the leader of Boracay’s restoration program, said the island’s closure was a boon for the island’s decreasing marine life.

“Whale sharks, young sharks, and sea turtles have been observed returning. Some have begun to nest in the northern section of Boracay “She stated.

“So these are some of the beneficial consequences of the lockdowns. The ecosystem has the ability to rebuild itself on its own.”

As coronavirus infections reduced, local tourism returned in October, but business has yet to take up. Due of the threat of the Omicron strain, the administration postponed the scheduled reopening for foreign visitors this week.