Tourists pack Boracay but leave island dirty

Nestor P. Burgos Jr.

ILOILO CITY, Philippines (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Boracay Island, regarded as one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the world, was reduced to a “large garbage dump” when unruly tourists who went there to party and explore, did not dispose of their trash properly.

About 60,000 tourists descended on Boracay Island last week amid a long weekend holiday timed with the Labor Day break, dubbed “Laboracay.”

While the deluge of tourists was welcomed by tourism-related establishments, residents and environment advocates have raised an outcry over trash left by party-goers and the nonstop partying on the island resort that is already plagued by environmental concerns and perennial problems brought by years of unregulated development.

Kristoffer Leo Velete of the Department of Tourism suboffice in Boracay said the bulk of tourists arrived on April 27. On April 30, an estimated 30,000 tourists were reported staying on the 1,032-hectare island.

Most were domestic tourists, many of them young professionals and students. Those who took advantage of up to five days without work, due to several holidays in Metro Manila for the country’s hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, had been drawn to beach parties and other events sponsored by big companies.

“This could be the highest number of visitors recorded for Laboracay,” Velete told the Inquirer.

He said hotels and inns were booked and only suites and other expensive rooms were available.

The government of Malay town and other agencies had prepared for the influx of tourists by readying more motorboats to transport people to and from the Caticlan port.

Rowen Aguirre, executive assistant for Boracay affairs under the office of Mayor Ciceron Cawaling, said the color coding scheme regulating tricycles and motorized banca had been lifted during the period to provide the maximum number of vehicles.

But several residents and tourists had complained of delays and long lines in getting a boat ride.

Tricycles were also not enough to cater to the high number of tourists.

Some residents complained of the trash left by party-goers, especially along the 4-kilometer White Beach, the island’s main attraction.

“Empty bottles thrown all over … people urinating on the beach everywhere … party people smoking on the beach,” international designer PJ Arañador said in a Facebook post.

Arañador, a business owner and resident of the island for more than 15 years, said organizers of events and parties should ensure that no trash would be thrown and left by participants.

“You are all shameful. Are you being taught in school to throw trash in the sea? You organize parties but you leave garbage. You all make Boracay the largest garbage [dump],” he said.

Elena Brugger, a business operator and cochair of the environment committee of Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. Boracay, said event organizers should be responsible in educating participants and ensuring that the environment was not harmed by their activities.

Brugger cited the throwing of cigarette butts on the beach, an act prohibited by a municipal ordinance that she said had been repeatedly violated.

Boracay Island’s tourist arrivals reached 1,725,483 last year, 11 percent higher than the 1,560,106 tourists recorded in 2015.

Foreign tourists comprised more than half of the arrivals at 868,765, slightly higher than domestic tourists, which reached 813,302.