Mitigating The Tragedy of the Commons Through Planning Beyond Tourism
The issue regarding the proposed closure of Boracay underscores a dilemma that is common to many popular tourism destinations in the country and the threat to yet unspoiled locations that are being sought by local and international travelers. Already, alternative destinations are positioning themselves to capture demand that the closure of Boracay may bring. In a recent masterplanning study developed by JLPD for a tourism estate in Panglao, Bohol, we had mentioned that coastal tourism should be viewed as an extractive industry, no less destructive as mining or logging unless protected by stringent regulatory policy and more responsive planning approaches. A shift in mindset and planning where tourism is viewed as a transitory use and that encourages more evolutionary and transformative development may help prevent the degradation that threatens to plague many island destinations in the country.
Tourism has lately been one of the stars of the Philippine economy and is seen as the industry with a high potential for growth. The opportunity for Panglao to use tourism to propel its growth remains strong. Given the experience of overdevelopment in Boracay, however, over reliance on tourism has proven to be an unsustainable growth strategy. The irony of coastal tourism is that most developments are planned for people in transit—places for those seeking escape but not designed for those seeking to take root and build community. The irony of this industry is that it requires tourist destinations to be frozen in its pristine state to be enduringly attractive, a near impossible goal. It is our view that tourism is an enabling industry—one that lifts an economy from small scale agriculture or fishery towards a more productive service industry. However, a common fault in tourism development is the tendency for individual interests to prevail at the expense of the collective good, depleting the tourist attraction through overuse beyond its carrying capacity, leading to environmental degradation and gradual decay. This tendency is more prevalent in towns where tourism is the sole economic base. In this situation, tourism industry tends to take on an extractive nature: the more popular a tourist destination becomes, the higher the risk of depletion of the natural resource.
In a strategy using tourism simply as an enabling industry, perhaps the end-state would be for the planned transition into more mainstream uses that will not rely as heavily on tourist attractions. If tourism can trigger small-scale businesses that will lead to higher order businesses. For coastal tourism destinations, the opportunity to broaden the economic base beyond just tourism seems uniquely present. The international airport and the planned aerotropolis along with the urbanization spillover from Tagbilaran could position the Panglao tourism estate as a commercial hub rather than just a tourism hub. The most sustainable growth opportunity for the Estate over the long term, it seems, is not in resort development but in the creation and the continuous redevelopment of a Town Center that can capture growth brought about by urbanization and infrastructure development until the Estate becomes the hub of enterprise and diverse economic activity in Bohol.