For a moment let’s just forget about the nice to have sustainable practices like water and energy use efficiency and focus on the two core fundamentals on destination environment management: (1) managing your ‘shit’ water and (2) garbage disposal. Let’s face it, an international resort destination that does not pay attention to these fundamentals is not coming clean with visitors – literally.
Some questions that come to mind about Phuket’s environment management
- These issues have surfaced for the past two decades. If there were no plans to address these 20 years ago will it be addressed 20 years going forward?
- Why only the residents, small businesses, environmentalist and media taking up the issue? Why are the big global and regional hotel brands not voicing their concerns? Are they not concerned with what’s happening outside their properties in the wider environment? I’m sure as a group big hotels are some of the largest tax payers on the island. Shouldn’t you be using your financial clout to lobby the local authorities to do something? Seriously, expanded sewage treatment network and plants and better policing doesn’t cost a whole lot – especially for one of the biggest resort destinations in Asia.
- What about tourists? Why do you continue to patronize a destination that doesn’t respect basic hygiene practices? Would you accept raw sewage dripping into your hotel from a leaking sewer pipe? Obviously not! Have tourists been so mesmerized by the travel media that they only see one side of the island?
Boracay takes responsibility and gets international recognition
While the Phuket authorities are wavering on what to do next, Boracay (and hopefully other destinations in the Philippines) are being internationally credited for their efforts.
Not only has the Boracay beach management program been recognized internationally, Boracay was voted the World’s Best Island for 2012 by Travel+Leisure in large part because of its overall environmental efforts. Where was Phuket on that list?
What Boracay accomplished, while Phuket is delaying, can be attributed to the strong leadership and political will of Malay Mayor John P. Yap who has pushed for legislation to ensure beach cleanliness.
“One of the key factors for the international acclaim that Boracay is now reaping is the two-year old Boracay Beach Management Program (BBMP), a multi-sectoral initiative for the protection, sustainability and enhancement of the island’s coastal and marine resources.“
According to Ben Mañosca, general manager of Boracay Island Water Company: “For the next four years, we will be focusing on the expansion in terms of our waste water coverage . . . We are targeting to start construction of a new sewerage treatment plant in Boracay. This will increase coverage with the extensions of the sewer lines network”.
Boracay Island Water Company is itself a joint venture between a private sector company, Manila Water, and a government authority, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority. Real public-private partnership commitment to the environment.
Perhaps its time to augment the Philippines tourism tagline? “It’s more fun in the Philippines. And it’s cleaner too”
Image: Phuket Wan