One of the things that I love about the island is the beach. In my travels around some parts of the world and in the Philippines, I have not found one that came close to the powdery white sand and sparkling sea of Boracay. Though it hurts to see it being devalued by unstoppable construction of big hotels, people collecting sand, coral damage, climate change and discarded rubbish, I am still utterly entranced by it.
Therefore, having considered Boracay as my home, it has become natural for me to keep it as clean and orderly as I can. I often carry plastic bags along with me whenever I walk along the beach because I know I am bound to find bits and pieces of trash along my track. I start my walks from the southend of whit beach, stopping intermittently to pick-up shreds of plastic, small pieces of Styrofoam, plastic cups, brochures, broken lighters, etc., which gradually piles up in the vicinity of the Tourist Center, until it becomes full by the time I reach D’Mall, the bustling center of the beach. I do not mind clearing the beach of such nuisance; I do mind, however, that the waste in a world-class tourist destination is not well managed when thousands of tourists contribute to the environmental fee everyday for the last seven years.
My first question regarding the matter is: Could the lack of waste bins then be the reason for people littering on the beach?
On the other hand, a number of local groups have in the past initiated a beach clean-up drive. There has been the Boracay Yuppies, the Boracay Special Tourist Protection Office (BSTPO), the representatives of Barangay Yapak, Balabag and Manoc-Manoc, and other groups who have made an effort that fleeted with the passing of time.
As one Sunday morning, I was walking along white beach, particularly at the area of D’Mall, I came across a group who was doing a beach clean-up drive. In their brown uniforms with “the Guardians” printed on their backs, they sauntered along the beach, huddled together like a group of school children, carrying with them straw sacks for collecting garbage. When they made their turn towards D’Mall, none of them bothered to scout the beach for more waste. Had I not called the attention of one of them then that Guardian wouldn’t have collected the plastic lying on the beach. There was also a rusty bottle cap lying a meter away. I pointed that out to the same Guardian, but he just ignored it and rejoined his group. It was the only time that I saw them in my daily morning walks.
The same occurred during last habagat season. The community of Barangay Manoc-Manoc had pledged to do a beach clean-up drive every Saturday morning. The green uniformed representatives did so in their own sweet pace and again huddled as a group, until quitting time came, which was at noon, half of the short stretch of the beach has been left in its original state. The same group reappeared only on dry occasions, but as the succession of hard rains fell, not even their silhouette were ever seen again. Though these days, I would see a couple of women from their group sweeping on the beach, usually in the morning and afternoon but not always.
No one can doubt that organized beach clean-ups render an altruistic and positive reputation to its patrons, but when the act is not constant, the initiative appears to be done merely for the sake of vanity. What I see that is constant are the pieces of garbage lined-up on the beach, such as cigarette butts half buried in the sand, empty beer bottles that have been negligently discarded from the night before, plastic cups, obscured shards of glass and eye-catching junk food wrappers.
As for my second question: Could the weekly beach clean-up drives be responsible for the community’s negligence in waste disposal when the beach always remains dirty?
In response to my two questions, the answer is no. Every individual has a responsibility of cleaning up one’s own mess, especially if the area in question is not theirs. One could just keep one’s own litter until a garbage can is nearby. Unfortunately, this is not understood and practiced by the masses. To them, throwing candy wrappers and cigarette butts on the ground is normal, as evident on the surroundings of their own residences.
The system of garbage collection, on the other hand, is the same. From 6 to 7:30 in the morning, garbage trucks pass along the still somber beach path collecting rubbish from the waste bins and leaving traces of dirt on their tracks, while joggers and the breakfast crowd inhale their poluting emissions.
If tourism is highly prioritized in Boracay, then all of these rubbish should not be evident in its prime tourist spots, nor should these be hidden. These should be solved properly like any problem; not fixed with the provincial way of cutting corners just to get the job done and go home early to resume the daily tagayan (drinking session) with the neighbors. A self-sustaining strategy is the key, which should stem from education and keen awareness of the situation.
Until then, keep your eyes wide open.