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Cleaning up good

/ 05:24 AM February 23, 2018

Cesspool” is a word I would use to refer to sewers, septic tanks, and the comments section on any online post about Mocha Uson. I wouldn’t particularly put Boracay in the same category. But when the President essentially called the touted island paradise a pit of filth, no one could really argue. Even residents and local businesses on the island have welcomed the unexpectedly keen move of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to clamp down on violators of environmental regulations.

In truth, this has been a long time coming. For years, people have been calling for stronger preservation efforts on Boracay and other ecotourism sites in the country. An online petition, for instance, was launched in 2015 urging the government to take action, describing Boracay as being on the “verge of extinction.” The petition has amassed more than 23,000 supporters so far, and it is certainly not the only one lamenting the growing ecological issues on the island.

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Among the most crucial needs for environmental protection are policies based on science and sound decision-making, and the firm execution of these policies. Governmental action. Laws with teeth.

We everyday environmentalists and couch conservationists can only do so much. We refuse as many plastic straws as often as we can, we reuse plastic bags, we segregate our garbage. But in the end, our islands are still at the mercy of larger-scale operations that eat up more natural resources than we individuals can conserve and put out more waste than we individuals can reduce. It is imperative that these operations are regulated.

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Effective regulations are not only necessary but also vital in environmental preservation. The DENR’s recent efforts show that our environmental laws can indeed have teeth.

What we hope for now is that this is not merely a one-act show for the public or a politically motivated move. Unsurprisingly, the cleanup in Boracay has earned criticism, largely for being severe and sudden. Not a few are questioning the agenda behind the initiative, and more are voicing out against the DENR’s methods as of late, challenging the agency’s list of alleged violators and disapproving of the armed police escorts that cause concern at tourist-filled establishments.

Always, we hope for governmental action devoid of personal incentives. We cannot just keep waiting for the sporadic implementation of laws, which typically occurs only when and where public officials find it personally beneficial. Instead, environmental work needs to be consistent and sustained. The Boracay cleanup must get the ball rolling for serious preservation efforts throughout the country.

And there are plenty still to protect: the mountains of Benguet and Davao defiled by ignorant trekkers, the heritage trees of Baguio threatened by congestion and pollution, the whale sharks of Oslob whose safety and natural behaviors are altered by intrusive divers, and miles and miles of coral reefs endangered by irresponsible fishing and diving practices.

We have every reason to guard these natural resources, as we are an archipelago that greatly relies on them. For one, ecological tourism is part of our country’s economic lifeblood; it is the rich and unspoiled quality of our islands—not the fancy hotels and malls—that drives tourists to our shores.

But what’s more important than enticing tourist money is preserving the very resources that sustain Filipino life. Healthy seas that feed our fishers, fertile soils that yield a living for our farmers. These are the foremost reasons for our country’s need for solid and consistent ecological management.

The current administration is known for its strong words and even stronger actions on whichever issues it decides to give attention to. As it has now turned its eye to protecting an ecotourism hotspot, it must hear louder from us to continue making real progress on the ecological front. Boracay is a controversial yet necessary start. From here on out, cleaning up good must extend to the other, equally beautiful, corners of this blessed archipelago.

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TAGS: Boracay, Cesspool, Mocha Uson
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