THE recommendations and suggestions put forward by previous planning initiatives for Boracay have been ignored. Very little or nothing was done, leading to the current uglification of Boracay.
Boracay is one of the top beaches in the world for its fine white sand, and is the pride of Philippine tourism. However, the influx of tourists has caused unwanted and uncontrolled development which has led to the uglification.
Since 1991, Palafox has been involved with the planning of Boracay Island – in 1991 with the European Economic Community; in 2006 with the then Philippine Tourism Authority for the Boracay Integrated Master Plan; and also for various potential local and foreign investors as well. Since then, we have already proposed more than 50 recommendations and more than 80 development guidelines for the island alone.
Back in 1991, Palafox Associates and other consultants already identified the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and high development potential of the island, along with the consequences of the “do-nothing” scenario. The lack of sewage and waste disposal plan, lack of drainage, natural calamities, overdevelopment, environmental degradation and forest denudation, threaten the natural beauty of Boracay. There is also the threat of loss of the fine white sand due to construction violations like setbacks and easements, and concrete on the fine sand ground. It takes a thousand years to recover the beautiful, fine white sand of Boracay – the wind and sea breeze cycle takes hundreds to millions of years to form that high quality of sand. The uncontrolled urban growth and institutional weakness of the regulatory ordinances on building construction and tourism have also brought about all kinds of pollution to the island. Land pollution for lack of waste disposal plan; water pollution for the waste discharges; air and noise pollution because of the vehicles; visual pollution because of the visually obtrusive signboards and advertisements; and light pollution. What people are doing is like “killing the golden goose that lays the golden egg” – people want a piece of this island and overbuild despite the negative impact on the natural island environment and the local community.
Previous planning initiatives also identified the following parameters that have exceeded their development threshold since the mid to late 1980s: physical ground quality, tourist perceptions on overcrowding, resident perceptions, transport traffic, pollution, and lack of good governance. Back then tourist arrivals in Boracay stood in the hundreds of thousands, but now, two million tourists are crowding this 1,032-hectare island. Adding to that are 32,267 residents in the island as of 2015 PSA data. So, there are 59 tourists for every resident. With this kind of congestion, one can imagine how much waste is generated each day!
But, despite all these threats, Boracay has great potential. With the ongoing expansion of the Boracay Airport in Malay, there is a great opportunity for Boracay, as well as for the municipality of Malay, for an integrated intermodal green transportation system. To improve on the interisland connectivity, we proposed non-pollutant people movers like monorails, battery-operated or solar-powered vehicles, and elevated walkways. The first priority should be walking, then biking, mass transit, and preferably, no more private and polluting vehicles. Road design and transportation corridors as well should allocate one-third of the space for pedestrian, one-third for landscaping, and one-third for environment-friendly vehicles. Providing better access and connectivity would further improve tourism within the island since other tourist destinations in Boracay would be more accessible. Furthermore, access between Boracay island and the Malay mainland should be enhanced to spread development towards the mainland as well.
For environment protection, preservation, and enhancement, we proposed along the circumference of the island, along the shoreline, six interconnected sewer lines. And every development, structures, and buildings must connect. We agree with the actions of the government to shut the operations of businesses which violate these environment policies. There should also be public access to the beach for every 200 meters. The design should be inclusive, providing the best visitor experience for all, even those differently abled (i.e. people in wheelchairs, or using canes), cross-generational, and people of all income classes. A 50-meter setback should be heavily emphasized, in line with international standards. This is what we proposed for the tourism master plan of San Vicente in Palawan, which made it the top eighth best planned project in the world in 2016.
At present, Palafox has been working together with the municipal government of Malay for the formulation of the Malay master plan for tourism, which would promote sustainable tourism within the island, and spread the tourism value across the whole municipality as well. This tourism master plan envisions an Island Beautiful and Island Efficient Boracay.
To effectively implement Boracay island master plans, architectural plans, and infrastructure plans, there are six kinds of infrastructure needed – progressive, hard, soft, institutional, green/sustainable, and digital infrastructure. Along with the five ingredients for success – visionary leadership, good governance, strong political will, appreciation for good architecture, and good planning and design.
We envision a clean, beautiful and efficiently-run, environment-friendly Boracay towards a more sustainable, resilient, global, tourism island destination well into the 21st century.