Boracay closure benefits Bohol – but for how long?

THE IMPENDING 6-MONTHS CLOSURE OF  THE FABLED ISLAND OF BORACAY- will definitely have positive effects on the tourists’ arrivals in Bohol.

Since last Holy Week, 90 to 100% room occupancy was noted in the beach resorts in Panglao and Anda. We thought it will only be good during the Holy Week.  But it went way past the observance of Lent.

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The arrivals both of foreign and domestic tourists continue to rise. Last year, Bohol recorded 1,131,065 tourists, a 100 thousand number of tourists increase compared to the previous year.

Foreign nationals registered at 444,207 while local tourists reached to 686,858. This indicative increase in arrivals led many to the question if Bohol is ready for this influx. The answer is yes and no.

Yes, because of the tourism-culture is already engrained in the hearts of the Boholanos that can be felt by every arriving tourist- as if by osmosis. And yes, also because of the balanced eco-tourism potentials in Bohol. 

Surely, Bohol has a whole lot more to offer than Boracay.  That tourist’s haven in Western Visayas (Boracay) has actually nothing else to offer on the table except the white sand and now- their currently unclean seawaters.   

Boracay does not have the greenery of our mountains like the man-made forest, the Chocolate Hills, the rice terraces in Candijay, the various waterfalls, and caves and the fireflies watching at night. But it is not just the blue seas and the green leaves of the mountains and hills, but the rich value of the centuries-old churches and the socio-cultural-historical artifacts and stories about the island province.

On the other hand, we can say no because of the environmental parameters which also need to be checked in order not to hasten our beaches’ destruction as what has happened in Boracay.  We know for a fact that 90% of our Panglao beach resorts do not have the needed basic wastewater treatment facilities, as revealed by its own councilor.

The headline last Friday of the leading broadsheet The Philippine Daily Inquirer is very disheartening: ‘DENR UNCOVERS MACTAN, PANGLAO CESSPOOLS. We recall that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Boracay closure- precisely because- it had become a “cesspool”.

The report said that both Mactan and Panglao – two of the top tourist destinations in the Visayas- have fecal coliform levels that exceed the standards set by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

According to EMB Director in Central Visayas William Cunado, a recent study identified the fecal coliform level at 150 to 200 most probable number (MPN) in Panglao while that in Mactan was at 180 to 250.

“The figures exceed the acceptable concentration of 100 MPM per 100 millimeters which is considered safe for swimming and water sports. Levels above tolerable standards may lead to illnesses after contact or ingestion of water.”

Cunado said more than 300 hotels and resorts in Panglao, crown jewel of Bohol’s tourism, have been issued notices of violation of the Clean Water Act (Republic Act No 9275). The contamination of the waters is believed to be due to the non-compliance with the proper wastewater treatment and sewage disposal of the hotels and resorts.

Several establishments were also found guilty of building structures beyond the 20-meter salvage zone limit based on high tide measurements of the waters fronting the establishments.

If Mactan and Panglao do not set their violations straight, the iron hand of the law for closure could also be certainly imminent. We have to treat this environmental issues seriously.

On the other hand, what we also lack is the discipline of our drivers who overcharge tourists at the piers and airports.  Of course, a more authentic  Bolanon delicacy menu and a respectable venue for cultural-historical shows are also still wanting.

Likewise, legitimate fears abound that we do not really have an adequate and more stable supply of water and power- no matter how policymakers muddle the issue.

Aside from these “missing links,” we need more rooms to accommodate this expected high influx of visitors very soon.

It is a good thing and of remarkable timing that JPark Island of top Cebu businessman Justin Uy did its groundbreaking yesterday for an additional  1,100 room accommodation and the establishment of perhaps the grandest waterpark in the country. 

The JPark island which sprawls upon acres of land in scenic Panglao could become a game changer in Bohol tourism. We thank the passionate Cebu business honcho for his foresight in putting his resources in Bohol.

In fact, we know that he is leading the long line of investors who are now finally “believers” of the bright future of Panglao.  The cost of  Panglao real estate, in fact, skyrocketed during the past six months because of the buying spree of investors, both local and foreign.    

The entry of TIEZA helping the development of the resorts and other locators in Panglao will make the progress even more detailed and guided especially on the issue of preventing Panglao from transforming into another Boracay.

Admittedly, the primary reason for this sudden rapid and upscale development is because of the forthcoming opening of the new Bohol Panglao International Airport which will operate sometime in August this year.

This is the main anchor why everybody is gung-ho on Panglao. The next months will see pretty exciting developments in Panglao island.

But, we need to see things in deeper perspective now. Addressing our own  Boracay-like problems and at the same time accommodating the overflow of the unsatisfied demand displaced by the closure of the white-sand Paradise called Boracay are the urgent calls of the day. It is A-1 Urgent and of ASAP priority.

The pertinent question would be: are we up to our new-found billing? Or will be weighed on the scale and be found wanting? Let us wait and see.

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com



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