More than 70 JCI Philippines members, led by National President Ivan Ruste, joined in the coastal cleanup
The “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!” coastal cleanup drew 252 volunteers
Even on a stormy weather, Boracay was beautiful. The rows of resorts, stores and restaurants that huddle along the shore of the famous White Beach of the Philippines' foremost tourist island were silent in the early morning of Aug. 4, but the beach was rambunctious, spewing detritus of last night's party as well as those from other shores. The beach cannot clean itself up in a short span of time and it needs help. And help came from hundreds of people who volunteered for a coastal cleanup. The volunteers were bouyed up by the fact that Boracay was recently awarded the number-one island in the world by Travel+Leisure magazine based on a survey of a number of tourists. This gave added impetus to take care of Boracay's environment, which its main attraction aside from the establishments that crowd in it.
The coastal cleanup though was not brought about by the recognition. It was conceptualized months ago by Junior Chamber International (JCI) Philippines for its social responsibility campaign “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!”
Junior Chamber International Philippines, formerly known as the Philippine Jaycees, is an affiliate of the Junior Chamber International (JCI), which is a global, membership-based, non-profit organization of young people aged 18 to 40 in more than 100 countries. Its members swear to take an active role to effect change as well as help communities.
Through the years, JCI Philippines, which has about 6,000 members all over the country, has had many civic projects. The present national president Randolf Ivan Ruste, a civil and geodetic engineer and a member of 12 years from Zamboanga City, is inclined more towards environmental efforts. The “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!” campaign is a major project under his leadership and aims to develop awareness and generate funds for training youth in environmental advocacies, tourism and hospitality industry. The campaign kicked off with a coastal cleanup.
"Protecting our natural resources, specifically our beaches, is an advocacy close to my heart. This campaign, ' Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!' is a call for everyone to do their share, no matter how small, to ensure that the beautiful beaches that we enjoy today will be inherited by generations to come," Ruste said in a speech before the cleanup. "I want to have my own family someday, and I want my kids to see the same Boracay that I've seen in my youth—beautiful and blessed with spectacular sunsets. I want my kids to have the chance to appreciate the world's best island. 'Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!' is a way for me to achieve that. This project will make it possible for our kids to inherit the beautiful natural resources we have."
JCI PR and marketing officer Ana Pista shared, “As an organization committed to creating positive change in the society, we see the preservation of the environment as one of our key responsibilities. Boracay is one of the country’s treasures but due to heedless commercialization, the island is slowly losing its beauty so we want to do something about that.”
Administered by Philippine Tourism Authority and the provincial government of Aklan, Boracay Island has been for many years the country's number-one tourist destination, drawing a total of 908,875 foreign and domestic tourists in 2011, which is a 16.57 percent increase over 2010’s 779,666 tourist arrivals. Tourist arrivals in Boracay have increased consistently for the past several years. Many fear the number of people has been taking a toll on Boracay's environment. For a long time, there has been criticism of overdevelopment with structures being constructed yearly to accommodate and entertain tourists. And these bring in substantial tourism revenues, which have been increasing—from P11.9 billion in 2009 to P16.7 billion in 2011.
Officials from JCI Philippines, Boracay Foundation and other organizations affix their signatures on the “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!” banner to signify the start of the campaign of acquiring as many signatures as possible for Boracay
From left: Adel Al Karis L. Lumagod, project officer/marine biologist, Boracay Foundation; Alexander Chok, 2012 National President of JCI Malaysia; Johnny Dayang, president of Boracay Global Press Corps; Ivan Ruste, National President of JCI Philippines; Miguel R. Labatiao, vice president internal and co-chair on environment of Boracay Foundation; Ryan Ravanso, JCI Philippines National Treasurer; Lanie Atanacio, JCI Philippines executive director; and Bernard Dy, JCI Philippines 2011 National President
Gradually though, environmental measures are being put in place such as a sewage system. Environmental-friendly practices were implemented by many establishments. The Boracay Foundation, an organization of business owners in the island, also has environmental activities such as coastal cleanup. Environmental fees are collected from tourists to be used for the environmental projects on the island. Boracay is clean compared to Metro Manila, which wallows in its own garbage and environmental problems. But studies are yet to be conducted on the environmental impacts of tourism and other factors on the island. Help from outside is always welcome.
The JCI coastal cleanup drew 252 participants from both private and public sectors including Shangri-La Boracay Resort, Islander Bikers, Uno Corp., the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Army, the Philippine Red Cross, Sunshine Inns, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South West Tours, Megaworld, Aria, PCCI Boracay, Hama Japanese Cuisine, The Informer, Boracay Island Global Academy, BIWC, Marian and Webster, and Palassa Spa. In addition, 73 JCI Philippines members from other parts of the country joined in. The activity was supported by establishments such as Pearl of the Pacific Beach Resort, Sea Wind Beach Resort, Red Coconut Beach Resort, Juice Bar, La Carmela de Boracay and Paradise Garden Beach Resort. Major partners were the BFI and the local government of Malay, Aklan.
Starting in Station 3 in the barangay of Balabag, the volunteer group split into two and combed White Beach. About 90 kilos of non-biodegrable trash and 400 kilos of biodegrable trash, mostly seaweed brought about by the habagat, were collected. Most of the trash came from other areas, particular from the Aklan mainland, washed up on the shore of Boracay. The garbage was turned over to the materials recovery facility (MRF) unit of Balabag, one of three in Boracay.
But the "Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!" campaign is not only about coastal cleanups.
"Aside from the coastal cleanup, 'Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!' is also a signature drive," said Ruste. "We want to ask people to sign, to pledge their support of protecting the beautifying our beaches. Each signature is one step towards achieving our goal. For every signature that we get, JCI and its partner will donate P1. The money will be used for lectures where we will teach elementary school kids of Boracay how they can protect the environment. These lectures will also teach them how they can promote the country's tourist spots. These will be done in October in cooperation with the Department of Education."
The Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Army also participated in the “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!” coastal cleanup
About 90 kilos of non-biodegrable trash and 400 kilos of biodegrable trash, mostly seaweed brought about by the habagat, were collected
During the coastal cleanup, JCI collected about 700 signatures, which translates to P700. The signature campaign is still ongoing. The second phase of the campaign in October will be highlighted by a fun run which will be participated by various JCI chapters all over the country and other stakeholders in Boracay. Ruste said that they plan to take their advocacy to other places such as Bohol, Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, Palawan and Cebu.
"We hope that the 'Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!’ campaign will inspire people to do their share in preserving nature. As they say, to whom much is given, much is expected. We have been blessed with so much natural treasures so we have to be responsible stewards and start acting to preserve what is left of these," Ruste declared.
For more information on JCI Philippines and its projects, visit www.jciphil.com or www.jci.cc.