Asia Minute: Enforcing Limits on Paradise in the Philippines

Dec 26, 2018

Boracay Beach
Credit Deortiz / Flickr

This holiday week is a popular one for visitors to Hawaii, and it’s also a busy vacation week for visitors to the Philippines. That’s part of the reason activities at one popular beach are coming under close watch by tourism professionals around the world.

Boracay Island in the Philippines is cruising through another week of one of the world’s great experiments in tourism, crowds, and sustainability.

Earlier this year, the beaches had become so packed it overwhelmed the infrastructure. Last spring, President Rodrigo Duterte shut the whole island down – banning visitors – pressing pause on the hospitality industry for six months.

As of today, Boracay has been re-opened for two months. Tons of trash have been carted away — new pipes have been laid.

Reports in local and international media say the beaches are noticeably cleaner.

Fewer hotels are in operation. Those that are in business are following the rules — from treating sewage to restricting certain activities on the beach — no more weddings, no smoking, no vendors.

Some infrastructure problems remain – while residents, tourists and businesses are all adjusting to new limits on the number of visitors allowed.

Credit Alexey Komarov / Wikimedia Commons

The Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources determined the island’s carrying capacity is 55,000—and with about 36,000 residents, that only allows room for about 19,000 tourists at any given time.

A group of residents and businesses says more still needs to be done — including banning cruise ships to make sure the beaches and other natural resources remain at a sustainable level.