Manila: The Philippines` once pristine island of Boracay has become extremely overdeveloped, with its famous beach now choked by sewage and too many bars, the country`s new tourism minister said Friday.
In a candid interview, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim suggested it was time tourists visited equally beautiful beaches in the country other than Boracay, which the government said drew 650,000 tourists last year.
"If you go to Boracay you`d love the beach, you`d love the night life and the good restaurants. But it`s so dense, it`s so dense," Lim said.
"It is now, you know, too commercial. It`s become Phuket," he said, referring to the much larger Thai beach resort island.
Lim, who joined President Benigno Aquino`s cabinet when it took power on June 30, said the 10.3 square-kilometre (four square-mile) central Philippine island of Boracay was a different place a generation ago.
The sprawl that followed the tourist dollars caused the seawater off the four-kilometre (2.5 mile) white-sand beachfront to sprout algae, which was fed by sewage from the hotels and restaurants, he said.
"Thirty years ago they tried to set the rules but they were not successful. The local government did not cooperate... so people started overbuilding," Lim said.
"Of course, bad sewage -- that`s why (you are seeing) algae at certain times of the year. It`s green. It`s the result of the sewage seeping out. "The algae there is not yucky, it`s moss. Maybe fish eat it. But it`s an indication that there`s a problem below the surface."
Asked if the problem, which first made world headlines in the mid-1990s, had been solved, Lim said: "I`m not sure. I don`t think so, that`s why at certain times of the year the algae forms."
Lim said environmental and zoning regulations were not being enforced, leading to structures even being built inside the high-water mark. "And they continue to build. They`re building huge hotels in the mountains."
Lim suggested the government may in the end be unable to halt overdevelopment.
"We have world-class laws but nobody follows them," he said, adding tourists may just have to look elsewhere. "The thing about Boracay is the quality of the sand, (it is) very white. But there are other places that have better quality sand, but (they are) very expensive," Lim said.