Workers work on the drainage system in the business centre in Malay town on Boracay island, Aklan province on April 6, 2018./AFP
Workers work on the drainage system in the business centre in Malay town on Boracay island, Aklan province on April 6, 2018./AFP

Greed, not urine, why Philippine paradise Boracay a ‘cesspool’

opinion April 15, 2018 01:00

By Ma Ceres P Doyo 
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Asia News Network

4,341 Viewed

Thousands of people urinate in the waters of the Philippines’ paradise. Sounds gross, but there’s science, if not method, to it.

To put it in Shakespearean terms: So, to pee or not to pee — that is the question.

In the news every day in the past several weeks is the tourist paradise island that is Boracay and its impending temporary closure starting on April 26 because of the “cesspool” that it has become. That is to use President Duterte’s word signifying disease-causing filth. The main culprits: resort and hotel owners disposing of untreated sewage into the surrounding waters and also encroaching on areas where structures are not supposed to be.

Boracay has been abused, battered and overburdened for so long it now needs to be rehabilitated, allowed to rest and be restored to a better condition — though, alas, not to its original pristine state because the so-called development that was brought upon it can no longer be undone.

I’ve visited Boracay only twice. The first time was in 1991 when there was yet no electricity on the island and one could walk quietly on stretches of deserted white beaches and take in the original beauty of the island gem when time began. The second time was in 2007 when I stayed at a golf resort with a secluded beach where one could splash and frolic with the tiny fishes. I even found a hidden cave that was turned into a rugged chapel where one could sit and meditate. (I hope it is still there. I have a photo of it.) How I avoided going to the busy “downtown” shopping and party area where crowds gathered.

Now when I see TV footage and photos of thousands of tourists immersed in the so-called “cesspool”, I wonder whether they, like the erring, negligent resort owners, also release their own excretions into the water and whether these are plentiful enough to befoul the waters.

The question begs to be asked: Have done it? Lighten up.

From research I learned that it is “A-OK” to pee in seawater. (Hold it! Not in swimming pools.) A multinational manufacturing giant (toilet paper is one of its countless products) found out that two-thirds of the people it surveyed have done it while one-half admitted they’ve done it several times.

Does urinating in the sea result in pollution? Here is the science or chemistry of it. (Source: “Is it OK to pee in the ocean?” by Katie Jennings, Business Insider)

“Human urine is 95 per cent water. It also contains sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl) ions – these are the same components that make up regular table salt (NaCl). The ocean too is made up mostly of water (more than 96 per cent) and an even higher concentration of sodium and chloride ions. Both the ocean and urine also contain potassium (K).

“One compound found in urine that is not found in the ocean is urea. It is a carbon-based compound that helps the body rid itself of nitrogen. But… the nitrogen in urea can combine with ocean water to produce ammonium, a compound that acts as food for ocean plant life. You might even say 

that peeing in the ocean is actually good for the plants and animals there.

“… All of the animals that live in the ocean also pee in the ocean, including fin whales, which produce 250 gallons of pee each day. Even if every human on earth peed in the ocean at the same time, it would only create a tiny concentration of urea.”

Human urination does not attract shark attacks, scientists say. As to the method, there are ways to safely and discreetly do it. No need to surf the Internet. You know what to do.

Seven years ago I interviewed an Ati leader, Delsa Supitran Justo, who led her people to fight for land rights in Boracay. The Ati people were the aboriginal and original inhabitants of the island until development pushed them to the margins. She told me then: “We will lay down our lives for this land because it is ours.”

And they won a slice for themselves where, I hope, they now live peacefully and in abundance.