By John Virata
Boracay Island in the Philippines is suffering growing pains. Considered one of the most popular island destinations in the world, it really comes as a non-surprise that the world-class tourist destination has suffered considerable coral loss in the last 23 years, when Boracay transformed from a little known getaway for locals to what it has become today.
Filipino scientists and Japanese scientists with the Japan International Cooperation Agency conducted a study that says between the years 2008 and 2011, the highest decrease in coral coverage occurred, coinciding with an increase of 38.4 percent in the number of tourists visiting the island. From 1988 to 2011, coral coverage decreased by 70.5 percent, due primarily to tourism related activities such as unmonitored snorkeling and diving. Another study by Coastal Ecosystem Conversation and Adaptive Management said that direct discharge of untreated wastewater near the island’s shores have also contributed to the decline of corals. The dumping of this raw sewage causes algal blooms on the reef, which kills the corals. The presence of raw sewage in the water of the eastern section of Boracay Island is so bad that CECAM scientist Miguel Fortes of the University of the Philippines said that it is unsafe for swimming, diving, and other activities. Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Campylobacteriosis, Escherichia coli Diarrhea, Encephalitis, Gastroenteritis, and Typhoid fever are just a few of the many diseases that humans can acquire when exposed to raw sewage.
Through CECAM findings, we hope that (local government units) and policy makers will be able to use scientific and technological knowledge to address critical environment issues affecting the study’s pilot sites,” JICA senior representative Takahiro Morita told Philstar.com. “Tourism is an important economic driver in the Philippines. By protecting marine resources, we are also helping sustain the tourism industry and jobs creation in the country,” Morita said.
While the island has suffered from coral declines, beach erosion has also taken a toll on what remains the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines. Couple this with no place to send the thousands of tons of trash the island generates each month and you have a recipe for disaster in one of the island nation’s most ecologically sensitive regions. The Philippine Department of Transportation says that 1.5 million tourists visited the 7 kilometer island in 2014 alone. That trash has to go somewhere.