By Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal
The Philippines is home to some of the world’s best destinations. From the world-famous beaches in Palawan, Boracay, Cebu, Tawi-Tawi, Siargao, and Bohol (to name a few) to the spectacular islands of Batanes. There’s the breathtaking rice terraces in Batad as well. The list could go on for miles, but as has been pointed out numerous times, we remain a low priority in terms of tourist arrivals. We see them come here but the numbers translate to less than impressive records compared to our Asian neighbors.
During one of my conversations with a good friend, Chino Trinidad, we discussed that within the term of President Duterte, the Philippines will observe in 2021 the 500th anniversary of the landing of Magellan in Philippine shores, and the circumnavigation of the world.
It’s a particular segment in history that can be easily overlooked but it is nevertheless a significant one. It reminds us that even then, there could have been a culture of tourism (some will argue conquer) that was a prelude to countries and destinations turning into global hubs. We can only hope that the celebration in 2021 will trigger an influx of tourists who wish to glimpse into history through a revisit of the Philippines.
Nobody envies the Department of Tourism’s predicament now given the renewed campaign against the so-called “violators” in Boracay that the DENR is going after. Talk about a state of calamity further aggravates the worsening narrative and we are left guessing as to what could happen next, given that Bohol is likely to suffer the same fate in so far as inspection and closure are concerned.
The DENR cannot be faulted for its aggressive strides in policing the erring establishments because the violations had gone unchecked for years and years. But it falls on the DOT’s lap to implement remedial measures that will clean up Boracay’s image.
Arguably, this could recast the Boracay brand as an eco-friendly and responsible world-class destination but the residual effects of being called a “cesspool” of some sort might take long to erase.
I have always been an ardent supporter of local tourism and I am optimistic that this tide of negative news will simmer down soon enough. Boracay has withstood the tests of nature and time and it will rise again, against what has been done to diminish its value as a premier destination.
The looming state of calamity could drag us down for now but the much needed Boracay transformation may just be what we need to lift it high once again.