ALGAL BLOOM: BOON OR BANE?

Boracay Algae

Whether we like it or not, the beautiful white sands in Boracay will be partially covered by green algae particularly starting from February until the end of May. This phenomenon had been observed even before tourism bloomed in this island decades ago.

Due to the continued tourism development in the island, the presence of the green algae is sometimes wrongly tagged to the influx of tourist arrivals here. This is however countered by authorities and even locals who have witnessed the recurrence of this phenomenon.

According to Atty. Helen Catalbas, director of the Department of Tourism in Western Visayas, the algal bloom in Boracay is a blessing, not a curse to the tourism industry. “Algae is a blessing because it contributes to why the Boracay sands remains white and cool, where one can walk even under the scorching sun,” said Catalbas during the recent meeting of the Regional Ecotourism Committee.

Contrary to reports that Boracay water is polluted, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) attests that the island’s water is safe, based on their February 2017 water quality assessment. The recent monitoring showed that the water along the White Beach where these algae can be seen, have not exceeded the normal levels for identified pollutants and water quality has excellently improved.

EMB Director Livino Duran likewise said that algal bloom is part of nature, not an indicator of polluted water, adding that there was no significant increase in the volume of the species.

Testimonies

Boracay locals also defended the presence of the algal bloom in the shorelines of this world-renowned island.

Septuagenarian Mila Yap- Sumndad said there is nothing to be alarmed about. As a native of the island, Sumndad said that the green algae naturally appear during summer months and the increasing tourist population in the island has nothing to do with it. “It is there every year and usually becomes thick starting from March until May,” she said.

Barangay Captain Lilibeth Sacapaño of Balabag also agreed that the algae have been present even before the development in the islands started. “We even used to play with these algae during our younger years. They are already here decades ago,” she stressed. “For us, these algae are not pollution but blessings,” she added.

For Sangguniang Bayan Member Datu Yap-Sumndad, there is no truth to the notion that these algae are due to pollution. He stressed that algae formation is not only present in Boracay but even in nearby non-touristy beaches. He said that algae are also present in some beaches in Buruanga and in Hambil or Carabao Island in Romblon, which have lesser tourists.

Moreover, the councilor said the local government unit of Malay is working together with other organizations in the island to mitigate the impact of tourism on the environment. The councilor urged the public to disregard the false information on the algal bloom in Boracay, adding that it is everybody’s responsibility to protect the island’s image. He said the harm that these false information could create will greatly impact not just Boracay alone, but of the country’s tourism industry as well.

Meanwhile, for the part of the business sector, Boracay Foundation Incorporated President Dionisio Salme said an information drive about the truth of Boracay algae is being distributed to different establishments here. He said proper information dissemination and public education is needed to protect the island.

Salme also stressed that BFI continues its program to protect and maintain the environment of Boracay.

By KAREN BERMEJO

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  • brian

    Algal bloom is affected by an increase in nitrates and phosphates available in the system. Human waste and pollution gives us ammonia, urea, nitrate ion which algae use as nourishment. They are indeed blessings as they utilize these substances and clean up our mess. They are not pollution. The blooms I have seen in the 80s and 90s are far from the ones I’ve seen this past decade. Its worst now. So dont pretend there is no problem, or else Boracay would end up dying at a faster pace