Reports have it confirmed that DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu was instructed by Malacanang to conduct a study on the carrying capacity of Boracay which has been subjected to six-year closure order for rehabilitation. That’s noteworthy and good news, indeed.

Unknown to many even in the academic communities, Boracay”s carrying capacity had been studied by Lope A. Calanog, a researcher from the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau-Department of Environment and Natural Resources, College, Laguna, Philippines (Ecosystems and Development Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2012, pp. 2-13).

In his introductory portion, Calanog used the Department of Tourism’s (DOT, undated) very vivid description of Boracay Island. Aside from swimming, sunbathing, and night party hopping, the island has plenty of other things to offer:

For the more adventurous ones, there is boating and wind surfing, scuba diving, trekking, and mountain biking. Trekkingand mountain biking can bring even the intrepid to the island’s quaint interior villages and to the edges’ scenic rocky cliffs, discovering along the way many hidden coves with isolated beaches far from the tourist crowd.

For the more athletic type, there is golf, kayaking and sailboating. Fairways and Bluewater Resort Golf and Countryclub has an 18-hole championship course. Boracay also plays host to the annual Paraw Regatta, an international sailboat race that utilizes the native outrigger. In January, it is the site of an International Funboard Cup, which draws board sailor from all over the world,” it added.

“In between these activities, bargain shopping is a joy to others. Pieces of souvenir items provide endless possibilities, from trinkets and native accessories made of shells and semi-precious sones to exotic or contemporary beachwear and fashion artworks,”it finally said.

  This wide array of activities would not be possible, Calanog opined, without the rich natural resources of Boracay Island. It houses highly prodyuctive natural ecosystems that include mangrove forest, coral reefs, marshlands and lagoons. Its unique and fragile caves serve as homes to  specialized mineral formations as well as to diverse flora and fauna of important scientific, educational, historical and aesthetic values.

Seriously, the researcher observed: “Sad to state, however, these resources are now rapidly deteriorating due to influx of development, improper management, and uncontrolled exploitation. It was anticipated, he said, that the island’s fragile ecosystems will even be put in jeopardy if the projected two (2) million visitors is reached by 2010 (Gozun, 2005).

Hence, the draft Environment Master Plan for Boracay Island (DENR, 2008) underlines the importance of adopting an innovative approach that will address the environmental problems, which threaten the ecological integrity of the island’s natural ecosystems, he added.

Titled “Can Boracay Island Accommodate More Tourists,” Calanog’s study aimed to determine the carrying capacity of the 4-km White Beach area in Boracay area in terms of optimum number of tourists/visitors that can be allowed in the area and perform specific activities like swimming, sun bathing and other beach activities, and partying in the evening.

Likewise, the study aimed to establish the demographic profile of the visitors, their preferences for tourism activities, and willingness to pay for environmental protection. Result of study is hoped to contribute in identifying innovative approaches that will help to effectively and sustainably manage the unique, fragile and deteriorating natural resources of Boracay Island, the researcher finally said.

As an ecosystems concept, carrying capacity has been defined by several authors in different ways.  It is commonly expressed as the number of animals of a certain type which can be supported in a defined habitat without permanently impairing the productivity of that habitat or ecosystem.

Carrying capacity is viewed as an equilibrium or balance. However, the carrying capacity for many species is always changing due to various factors (Catton 1986). (To be continued).