ALL over the world are best tourism destinations and best beaches that practice sustainable principles, from which Boracay island can learn. Instead of copying the mistakes of Metro Manila, we should take inspiration from and follow instead these global best practices and trends for the future of Boracay island.
For the San Vicente tourism master plan, we recommended a 50-meter setback, considering the storm surges, high tides, flooding, and rising sea levels. We followed the examples of Miami Beach and Copacabana Beach, in Florida and in Brazil, respectively. There should be no permanent structure within this setback. Within the 25 to 30 meter easement, only landscapes, signages and non-paved pedestrian footpaths are allowed, while within 30-50 meters, only public open spaces are allowed. While decks are allowed, they should be elevated from the ground. Apart from the horizontal easement, there should also be a vertical easement implemented, wherein there should be no spaces for living on the ground floor.
There should also be public beach access every 200 meters designed for differently abled people. For private lots with alleyways leading to the beach, they should share these access paths with the public, and they should be regularly maintained. A minimum of three meters’ width must be provided for access roads.
To gear Boracay towards a more sustainable development, different modes of transportation can be integrated into the island. This would provide a favorable impression with the tourists, as well as improve the quality of living for the locals and employees in Boracay. High Line in New York is a perfect example of an elevated walkway. It used to be an old railway that was about to be demolished, but the locals took it upon themselves to convert it into a pedestrian-friendly walkway, with landscapes and good urban design, making the area more walkable and bikable. Given the narrow road networks of Boracay, they can adopt this idea of an elevated walkway to improve accessibility within the island as well as provide unobstructed views of the beach.
To accommodate the current and future tourist arrivals and in-migration of employees, the local government of Malay must improve on the connection between the mainland and Boracay island. The bangkas must be upgraded; in Dubai and Venice among other top tourist destinations, they make use of water buses, which can transport more passengers in one ride. This would lessen petroleum contamination of the waters near the ports. Many may be opposed, but cable cars or monorails would also greatly improve the connectivity of Boracay island to the mainland. In 2008, we proposed a cable car connecting Carabao island, Boracay island, and mainland Malay. This would also increase tourism activities for mainland Malay and Boracay. Austria has incorporated cable cars into their tourism plan, providing visitors breathtaking views of the Alpine Mountains. Austria has received top grades in environmental sustainability and in tourist service infrastructure.
It is great that Boracay has been encouraging the use of e-tricycles. However, there are other modes of transportation that the Malay LGU can adopt as well. Monorails can provide easier and faster means of access from the jetty port to their accommodations. Not only will this be beneficial for the tourists, it can help ease the hardship of locals and employees in the island commuting to their workplaces.
As some of the top innovative nations, South Korea, Sweden and Denmark are the benchmarks in terms of waste-to-energy technology. Considering the volume of waste generated by Boracay each day, it could generate enough energy to benefit those areas challenged by the lack of electricity. In Copenhagen, their waste-to-energy plant not only serves to convert waste to energy, but also serves as a tourist destination as well.
Boracay has been looking at the wrong models for development. Instead of repeating the mistakes of Metro Manila, it should look to the top tourist cities in the world such as Bangkok, London, Paris, Dubai, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul, New York, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.
There should also be a sense of arrival, whether it is from the airport or the sea port. Guests in Boracay and Malay are greeted by large and visually obtrusive billboards and advertisements. None of these reflect the culture of either the island or Malay mainland. All over the world, signages follow design guidelines to avoid visual pollution.
The island has great potential for a sustainable tourism development, given its fine white sands, the presence of forests, and other natural landscapes. However, to steer Boracay in this direction, there should be visionary leadership, good governance, strong political will, good planning, and appreciation for good architecture and good design.