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The problem with how we're dealing with the Boracay situation is one of false choices. We are being presented with simply two alternatives - to allow the destruction to continue unabated, or to have a full shutdown of the island - as if there was not a full spectrum of options in between.

First, we must begin from an acknowledgement that both people and the environment are important, and that government must honor - no, in fact guarantee as its Constitutional duty - that people exercising their rights by carrying out legitimate businesses and their contracts must be fully respected.

Second, the fact that the environment deteriorated should ultimately be laid at the door of government. Government alone has the ability to gather information about, and regulate in an informed and rational manner, the common use of common resources, the public good and the public welfare.

Third, regulatory action must be based on sound data, which includes proper consultation and consideration of all stakeholders, fully consistent with the mandate of due process. The proper determination of carrying capacity and the planning parameters of the island involves social and natural science research, both qualitative and quantitative. It is not a simply about setting a cap on the number of people. It involves a mix of variables in terms of space, infrastructure, visitor expectations, among others.

Fourth, there is a full spectrum of regulatory tools and implementation strategies, available to government officials sincerely intent on improving the quality of life and the environment on the island. Even with existing laws, the toolbox already includes BASIC and FUNDAMENTAL enforcement, using tax incentives, capping the total number of rooms, zoning strategies, accreditation and compliance scoring of establishments, among many others. These, in various combinations, in a carrot/stick approach can be used by a dedicated regulatory team in a transparent manner to fix the island within a reasonable amount of time.

Last, there is a frustration with the system, and the sense of urgency to get things done. But if we don't build the system, if we don't strengthen institutions, if we don't develop a sense of constructive and transparent collaboration between all stakeholders, then any assumed environmental gains achieved will be temporary in nature, and will come at a serious cost to people and to institutions.


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