THE Department of Tourism is worried about the Gigantes island chain in Carles, Iloilo. It is a fledgling tourist destination, not yet fully developed but already showing signs of stress due to, among others, improper waste disposal.
We had hoped that Boracay Island would be the last tourism spot to suffer from environmental degradation. And we still do hold on to that hope. It is not too late for Gigantes yet. Yes, other tourist destinations, too, should learn from the mistakes made in Boracay.
The truth is that main problem in Boracay is the weak enforcement of and non-compliance in the country’s environmental laws. And this is not unique to the island resort.
The buck actually stops with concerned government agencies and local government units. They must step up in enforcing our laws.
But people and businesses, too, have a big role to play to preserve tourist spots like Boracay. We should not use our islands, seas, bays and rivers as sewerage or garbage bins. We should not build on protected areas or encroach critical biodiversity areas; instead, we must preserve our wetlands and forestlands, which ensure the balance of our ecosystem.
If we simply comply with environmental laws, especially the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Law, we would not have to be here. The implementation of the ESWM law will address solid waste disposal issues.
All tourist destinations must have functioning sewerage and septage systems. Figures from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources show around 7.5 million liters of wastewater was generated in Boracay every day (prior to its massive cleanup last year) but only about half was treated properly, while the other half was discharged untreated. About 30 to 40 percent of the untreated wastewater came from private homes, and the rest from business establishments.
If we only comply with environmental laws we would not have to deal with environmental problems.