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Boracay rehab experience: Precedent to sustainable tourism across Southeast Asia

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The strategies which were implemented by the Philippine government during the six-month intensive rehabilitation of Boracay island resort is a precedent to sustainable tourism across ASEAN member states, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said during the 22nd meeting of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers in Ha Long, Vietnam on January 17.

According to Romulo-Puyat, ASEAN member states can draw inspiration from the Philippine experience in Boracay. “We wish to share the Philippines’ experience in the rehabilitation of our top sun-and-beach tourism destination, the island of Boracay. With the re-opening of Boracay, we are glad that the message of sustainability has reached far and wide,” she said.

On October 26 last year, the Philippines reopened Boracay to tourists after a six-month intensive rehabilitation to rid the beach of pollution and to fix its unregulated sewage system that has contributed to the island’s “cesspool” state in the past.

After its reopening, stakeholders have lauded the country’s radical move that initially met criticism and apprehension based on fears that the closure of the country’s main tourist-draw would strain its tourism industry.

Belgian Ambassador to Manila Michel Goffin said the closure was a “good decision” on the part of President Rodrigo R. Duterte as it translated the government’s commitment towards sustainable tourism.

Romulo-Puyat campaigned for a “sustainable and responsible” tourism industry across the ASEAN as she cited the long-term benefits it would bring to each member state.

“We as the ASEAN must maintain that long-term benefits are more important than a quick buck in exchange (for) our environment’s integrity,” she said.

At present, the Philippines chairs the ASEAN Sustainable and Inclusive Development Committee.

During the meeting, Romulo-Puyat reiterated the Philippines’ commitment to the goals of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025 that seeks to steer the bloc towards having a “green” and “inclusive” tourism sector.

Based on ASEAN data, 129 million foreign tourists visited ASEAN member states in 2018, marking an increase of 7.6 percent from 2017.

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