“We don’t have to sacrifice a strong economy for a healthy environment.” –Dennis Weaver
When tourists fled from Guimaras’ popular beach resorts as a result of the worst oil spill in the Philippines when the oil tanker Solar I went down off Guimaras Island in August 2006, Nagarao Beach, among other resorts within the coastal area, suffered worse than what is about to happen to Boracay in Malay, Aklan which closes down for six months starting April 26, 2018.
While President Rodrigo Duterte tagged Boracay as “cesspool”, the tragedy that hit Guimaras resorts was called as the “AIDS of environment.”
A “cesspool” beach can be rehabilitated with total support from government, while a famous tourist destination with location in the vicinity an “AIDS environment” might not be able to spring back to life.
Even if those affected by the oil spill sued the oil refiner Petron Corporation for millions of damages, resort owners failed to attract back tourists who used to flock the island’s beautiful resorts and beaches even after the rehabilitation.
Martin Stummer, owner of Nagarao Beach, had warned: “The ill effects on the health of the residents will be felt until ten years and even beyond.”
Although still popular among the tourists who used to visit the island for snorkeling and diving – especially those with links to Stummer’s European networks – the 10-hectare Nagarao Beach, located off the coast of Sibunag, was never the same again.
The coastal areas of Nueva Valencia, Sibunag, and San Lorenzo were among the areas worst hit by the oil spill from the 998-ton tanker MT Solar 1 that sunk on Aug. 11, 2006 while transporting about two million liters of bunker fuel oil from Limay, Bataan.
The oil slick had reached Concepcion and Ajuy towns in Iloilo province.
If the dumped sewage will be rehabilitated, Boracay can be back to business in October or even earlier, according to government officials.
In 2017, Boracay had 500 tourism-related businesses, which had a combined revenue of P56 billion.
The president lashed at the island’s hotels, restaurants and other businesses, accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea and turning it into a “cesspool” in February this year.
Boracay’s drainage system was being used to send the untreated sewage into its surrounding turquoise waters, reported the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Some 195 businesses, along with more than 4,000 residential customers, were not connected to sewer lines, the DENR further discovered./WDJ