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Thread: BORACAY, Paradise or Paradise Lost?

  1. #11
    Duterte blames local execs for Boracay woes

    By: Morexette Erram, Philip C. Tubeza - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:08 AM February 13, 2018

    BORACAY / MARCH 27, 2017

    President Duterte on Monday threatened to charge local officials of Boracay with serious neglect of duty for “creating” an environmental “disaster” in the world-famous resort.

    Mr. Duterte also said he had given Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu the authority to “destroy” establishments on the island that violate environmental and health regulations.

    “I will charge you with serious neglect of duty for making Boracay a sewer pool. Boracay from afar is beautiful [but] you swim in Boracay and you stink with shit,” he said in a speech during the inauguration of the Malasakit Help Desk at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.

    The President blamed the “local governments and the people” in Boracay for the environmental degradation of the 1,032-hectare island.

    “You allowed the building of structures overlapping the coastline and already reaching the sea, which is not really allowed,” he said.

    “You allowed buildings constructed without proper sewer or sewage. That is yours. That’s you. You created a disaster there,” he said.

    Mr. Duterte noted that garbage was just about 25 meters away from the shore.

    “All the hotels have no [sewage treatment]. Your water goes directly to the toilet, to the flush and to the water and then [you say it’s worth] billions,” he added.

    “They say its earning millions … all structures there are worth billions. You know, I don’t give a shit. Either they will clean it up or I will close it permanently.”

  2. #12
    Boracay traders to Duterte: Close only establishments violating laws

    By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Visayas / 11:00 PM February 12, 2018

    ILOILO CITY - A group of business owners on Boracay Island called on the national government to close down only those establishments that violated laws and regulations but not the entire island, saying that President Rodrigo Duterte had been given wrong information about popular tourist destination.

    In a statement released on Monday evening after an emergency meeting, the Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI) also called on its members to “strictly comply and follow the necessary policies to be implemented” as it committed to work with government agencies in addressing the problems of the island.

    “We… welcome the six month ultimatum given by the President to the agencies and departments concerned to address the issues of Boracay,” said the BFI, which has about 150 member establishments, in its statement.

    The group said it had long been appealing for attention from the national government as the country’s premier tourist destination that generated P56 billion in tourist revenues last year and providing thousands of jobs.

    “We have continuously expressed our frustration and dismay over the lack of attention given by the national government and other offices concerned to the island of Boracay,” the BFI said. “Now that Malacańang is keen on fixing Boracay, we are hopeful that Boracay’s issues may finally be addressed as agencies and departments concerned will be pressured to urgently fix the island’s problems.”

    But it said it was “deeply alarmed” with the President’s statement that he would “close down” the 1,032-hectare island.

    “We believe this statement stems from misinformation and unverified data presented to the President,” the group said. “While indeed there are many violators, most of the island’s business establishments are strictly in compliance with prevailing ordinances and regulations.”

    It said it was “unjust to close the entire island at the expense of the compliant establishments.”

    In a speech at a business forum in Davao City on Friday, Feb. 9, the President threatened to order the closure of the island if the problems of Boracay would not be solved in six months.

    “I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool,” the President said.

    Instead of closing the island, environmental laws and local ordinances should be strictly implemented and all erring establishments should be immediately closed, according to the BFI.

    “To close the island would be an easy way out and too much to bear for the residents who depend on the island’s tourism for their livelihood,” the business operators said.

    It stressed that restoring the island cannot be done overnight and on its own.

    “We need everyone to set aside their personal interests and together make this happen for the future generations,” the BFI said. /atm

  3. #13
    Boracay casino seen earning $100M a year

    By: Daxim L. Lucas - Reporter / @daxinq Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:22 AM March 22, 2018

    The Boracay integrated resort that will be built by Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) and its foreign partner will bring in at least $100 million in annual revenue, a substantial portion of which will be paid to the government in fees and royalties.

    The publicly listed LRWC also stands to make a substantial upside from sales or leasing on the real estate component of the firm’s 23-hectare property on the resort island, LRWC corporate secretary Katrina Nepomuceno said.

    “Apart from LRWC’s share of the gaming revenue, we will be getting lease income from Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group, and revenue on the property side,” she said, explaining that the deal between both firms would be similar to that entered into by the SM conglomerate, through Belle Corp. subsidiary, with the Melco Crown group for the City of Dreams Manila integrated resort in Pagcor Entertainment City. “We own the land in Boracay on which the development will be built and Galaxy will pay us. We will already be earning even during construction period.”

    On Wednesday, LRWC welcomed the issuance of a provisional gaming license to Boracay Philippines Resort and Leisure Corp. (BPRL)—the local operating unit of Galaxy Entertainment—by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) which paved the way for an estimated $500-million resort casino on the island.

    “We at LRWC are elated and proud to be Galaxy Entertainment’s local partner in this momentous endeavor. We thank Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo and the entire Pagcor board for giving Galaxy the chance to contribute to the booming Philippine tourism and gaming industry by granting BPRL a provisional gaming license,” LRWC chair Reynaldo Bantug said.

    Preparatory work for the 23-hectare, eco-friendly resort project in Boracay has begun, and construction work is expected to start within the next 12 months.

    “We’re confident Galaxy Entertainment will positively contribute to the local economy and work market, and adhere to Boracay’s managed and sustainable development envisioned by President Duterte,” he added.

    Aware of Boracay’s environmental concerns, Bantug said LRWC would do its best to ensure that the Boracay project would preserve and maintain the natural beauty of the island.

  4. #14
    Don’t close Boracay, tour execs ask Duterte

    By: Jerome Aning - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:06 AM March 23, 2018

    No to the closure of Boracay. Yes to its rehabilitation.

    Tourism industry and Boracay-based leaders on Thursday made the appeal to President Duterte, who is supporting the proposal of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to close the island for six months to fix its environmental problems.

    The industry leaders said a closure would result in the loss of around 36,000 jobs and would adversely affect the island’s image as a world-renowned tourist destination.

    But they pushed for a partial closure of the 1,032-hectare island in Aklan province starting June during the rainy season.

    Last month, the President likened Boracay to a “cesspool” because of brazen violations by establishments there of environmental and zoning laws that included dumping sewage into the sea.

    “We support the government in adopting responsible and sustainable tourism practices that are making places better for people to live and visit, but [not in] shutting down the whole island,” said Marlene Dado Jante, president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association.

    Leaders of other groups, such as the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), Philippine Tourism Operators Association (Philtoa), and Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA), also attended the press conference.


    HSMA president Christine Ibarreta, reading from the groups’ joint statement, said the closure of the entire island “will have a severe impact on Philippine tourism as a whole” because Boracay was the “centerpiece of Philippine tourism.”

    Around 18,800 tourists arrive in Boracay every day, staying an average of three days and two nights.

    Of the country’s tourism receipts from January to September 2017, 20 percent or P56 billion was generated by Boracay.

    “All the hard work and marketing efforts of the tourism industry over the years will all come to naught, while our regional competitors will reap the benefits,” Ibarreta said.

    The tourism industry leaders were joined by officers and representatives of Boracay-based groups.

    TCP president Jose Clemente III said the industry was appealing for a dialogue with the President so that it could propose solutions other than total closure.

    State of calamity

    He said local industry leaders were worried about reports that Mr. Duterte would declare a state of calamity by March 26 and that the closure would take effect in a month.

    “We ask to be briefed about the details of the rehabilitation,” Clemente said.

    The groups’ positions on partial closure and its postponement conflict with the stand of a government task force—composed of the environment, interior and tourism departments—that closing the island was urgent to prevent its further deterioration.

    60-day cleanup

    Philtoa vice president Fe Abling-Yu said the groups were asking the government to give them 60 days, or April and May, to undertake cleanup and rehabilitation.

    “If efforts made are not enough, then and only then will a closure be effected. If timelines are followed, the closure [should] happen in June, in time for the [rainy] season,” Yu said.

    Leonard Tirol of the Boracay Foundation prefers the closure to be from September to November. “April is a peak season. If you want to close it, give [businesses] … the time to get some revenues to sustain their workers,” he said.

    He said there was no more off-season in Boracay. “It’s only peak and superpeak.”

    Closing the island in the middle of the year is not advisable as it is the time when Chinese and Koreans come, said Tirol, whose clan is one of the island’s original landowners.

    He said closure in stages should be implemented.

    In Barangay Yapak, for instance, beaches have already been cleared of vendors, while West Cove hotel and other restaurants have been closed for violating easement rules, he said.

    One beach in Barangay Balabag, which suffers from high coliform levels, could be closed while the problem is being dealt with, he said.

    Philtoa officer Mary Ann Ong said that while Boracay was currently booked, tour operators were on a “wait-and-see” mode, worried about future bookings.

    Open to tourists

    The popular destination can still receive visitors during the Holy Week break, according to Malacańang.

    No specific instructions have been given concerning Boracay and the “status quo” remains, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

    If it would indeed be closed, it would likely be during the lean season, he said.

    Shutting down the island will affect the livelihood of more than 17,300 registered local and foreign workers, according to industry leaders.

    Also to be affected are 19,000 in the informal sector, including beach masseurs, tattoo artists, vendors and daily laborers.

    “On top of these are the families and dependents of these workers,” Ibarreta said.

    There are around 54,400 registered residents in the three barangays of the island. - WITH REPORTS FROM POCHOLO CONCEPCION AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA

  5. #15
    The Boracay test

    The Philippine Star 19 Mar 2018

    The recommended one-year closure of Boracay is a tough test of the political will of President Duterte. The clean-up of Boracay should have been done a long time ago.

    Closing down Boracay for a year is an extremely tough decision to make. Thousands of workers dependent on Boracay will be out of jobs. Investors will lose millions, if not hundreds of millions, on capital spent to build up the tourism industry in Boracay. Boracay accounts for two million of the six million tourists we attract each year. Boracay reportedly brings in P56 billion in revenues too. Closing it completely for a year can damage the brand.

    Jojo Clemente, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, pointed out that it took one year to have Boracay included in the tour programs of foreign travel agencies and tour operators for 2018-2019. Tourists booked their Boracay tours and stay about a year in advance. “What will you tell them? Go to Cebu? Davao? What if they don’t like to go to those places because the contract between the guests and the travel agencies is for Boracay? So they go to Phuket instead, and the entire Philippines loses out,” Clemente warned in an interview with Business Mirror.

    I am not sure such a drastic yearlong closure is necessary. Allowing the resorts that have no violations to continue operating is the right thing to do. Punishing the good and bad doesn’t seem right. Indeed, allowing the good guys to operate will deliver the message that Duterte will reward the good and punish the bad. That’s justice.

    Anyway, the important test of the administration’s sincerity has to do with the resort that was built on a nobuild zone and has violated a number of other laws and regulations. Sen. Pacquiao told a television interview that he interceded with then DENR Sec. Joselito Atienza to grant that resort a permit and Atienza gave it.

    To mark the earnest start of the Boracay clean up, Duterte should send in the Marines as he had announced, to blow up that massive illegal construction. Then measures must be taken to bring that area back to what it was supposed to be ... a forest and mangrove reserve.

    But the stakeholders in Boracay shouldn’t be complaining too much about government’s drastic approach to fix what has gone wrong with the island. Most of them have abused Boracay over the years and ignored warnings that they are killing the island.

    The inability of local government units to properly manage such an important tourist destination calls for the creation of a strong tourism authority to regulate such areas. We need to do the same thing for Boracay, Siargao, Panglao, El Nido, etc.

    TIEZA or the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority should be converted into an all powerful tourism authority to take away the responsibility of regulating tourism enterprises from LGUs. The municipality of Malay, Aklan which covers Boracay has proven itself to be incompetent and, most likely, corrupt.

    The island’s carrying capacity should be considered. Maybe two million tourists a year is too much. A ban on new construction should be enforced. The construction of that fairly large DoubleDragon hotel should be stopped or moved to Caticlan on the mainland.

    The role of government in the industry should be infrastructure development and regulation to include environmental concerns through a tourism authority. Tourism promotion should be left to the private sector. The private sector should invest in building up their business.

    What Megawide is doing for Cebu is a good example. They earn more if more airlines go to Cebu and use Mactan airport. Airlines will go to Mactan if they have passengers. So Megawide launched tourism promotion drives in China, South Korea and Japan that is starting to deliver more flights and more tourists.

    If government is focused on regulation rather than “promotional” junkets abroad, the Boracay problem could have been arrested sooner. Unless government acts urgently, the same problems will manifest in Panglao, Siargao, El Nido and Coron.

    Panglao is about to make it to prime time with the inauguration this year of their very own international airport. Yet, the more popular and crowded beachfront areas in Panglao are showing the Boracay disease. The LGU there seems useless too.

    Closing down Boracay for one year is probably too radical. For the long term, creating a powerful tourism authority is a move President Duterte ought to consider to make things right in the tourism industry so that the Boracay problem doesn’t happen again.

    ROW problems

    NGCP sent word they are ready to cooperate with the completion of the San Miguel connector road project. They have, in fact, bought the materials needed to relocate their posts. What they don’t have is right of way.

    The steel poles, power conductors, insulators have arrived and are awaiting deployment, I am told. According to NGCP, the only reason things aren’t moving is because there were many notices of award revisions. Authorities keep on changing the sites NGCP will move to. Worse, any change in pole alignment may affect the pole line hardware NGCP is procuring.

    The TRB-PNR MOA to allow NGCP pole relocation near the PNR tracks is ON HOLD. PNR wants to construct a new office in the Pandacan station area.

    Apparently, DPWH is not to blame for this problem, but DOTr. The ROW problem is now between two government agencies, TRB and PNR, both under DOTr Sec. Art Tugade. Because of the delay, standby costs are being incurred and no one wants to assume responsibility.

    It will be fair to say Sec. Tugade is delaying a vital infra project through his indecision. This is a project that will relieve some of our traffic problems, which is also Tugade’s responsibility. Hay naku! Secretary Tugade... Anuba? Hoy, Gising!

  6. #16
    PH travel, tourism sectors girding for planned Boracay shutdown

    Airlines and hotels will take a hit, if the government pushes through with its planned temporary closure of Boracay. But some developers say it won't delay the construction of major commercial developments in the island.

    Chrisee Dela Paz

    Published 11:30 AM, March 21, 2018
    Updated 11:35 AM, March 21, 2018

    MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine travel and tourism sectors are girding for the planned shutdown of Boracay Island, the country’s top tourist draw.

    As President Rodrigo Duterte decides on a recommendation of key agencies to close the world-famous island resort to tourists for as long as a year, the country's biggest business group said while the intention is good, the government should also consider the negative impact on businesses that depend largely on Boracay.

    "Phasing is important so we are able to protect the interest of all parties concerned, especially the local residents whose incomes are dependent on Boracay’s economic activity," Sammie Lim, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) director for tourism, said in a statement.

    The proposed shutdown of Boracay is intended to address the ecological crisis hounding the island, but a complete closure of Boracay to tourists would displace thousands of workers.

    Boracay establishments generated 17,737 jobs in 2017, the largest number in Western Visayas.

    The island drew over two million local and foreign tourists in 2017, up by 16% from 2016, data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed. (READ: Aklan provincial board asks Duterte to reconsider Boracay closure)

    Kalibo International Airport manager Efren Nagrama said about 90% of inbound passengers in KIA are tourists bound for Boracay, Aklan’s top tourism spot.

    “The impact of Boracay's closure is huge and will hit the tourism industry of Aklan as well as the transport sector,” Nagrama said.

    KIA, one of the busiest regional airports in the country, caters to domestic flights from Manila, Cebu, and Davao; and international flights from China, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore.

    Contingency measures

    The airlines serving Boracay have contingency measures and alternative plans to cushion the impact a possible Boracay shutdown.

    Jenny Bugarin-Tan, AirAsia Philippines communications chief, told Rappler in a mobile phone reply that Asia Philippines operates almost 100 flights to and from Kalibo and Caticlan weekly.

    To offset potential losses in the event of a shutdown, Tan said the budget carrier is thinking of adding more flights to other leisure destinations like Bohol, Palawan, Cebu, Davao, and Iloilo.

    "[We are also looking at adding frequency to] Tacloban as there are gorgeous beaches and attractions in the area," she said.

    Tan also assured those who have already booked flights to Boracay that the airline will take care of them.

    "Let’s wait for the announcement of the President. Rest assured all guests booked via AirAsia will be handled properly. We have prepared flexible options so as not to disrupt their holiday and summer plans," she said.

    Philippine Airlines Incorporated (PAL) operates a total of 52 flights weekly to Caticlan from Manila, Cebu, and Clark.

    "PAL also operates a combined total of 36 flights weekly to Kalibo from Manila, Beijing, Busan, Chengdu. Nanjing, and Incheon," PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna told Rappler.

    At least 90% of passengers of each of these flights are Boracay-bound, she said, adding that the passenger load factor – a measure of flight utilization – of each flight is "in the high of 80% to 90%."

    Villaluna said PAL has "contingency measures" in case Malacańang decides on a Boracay shutdown.

    "As we await a final directive from the government, contingency measures are in place to ensure passengers who will be affected by such temporary closure will be able to rebook, reroute, or refund their tickets," she said.

    Cebu Pacific said it has been monitoring developments regarding the government's rehabilitation plan in Boracay.

    "We will take the necessary actions as soon as we have clarity on the government's plans and timeline," Charo Logarta-Lagamon, Cebu Pacicifc corporate communications director, said in a text message.

    "In the event we are required to cancel services, we will offer full refunds along with opportunities to transfer to other destinations where seats are available," Lagamon added.

    Alternative destinations

    Since the Boracay issue cropped up, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo has repeatedly urged tourism players to promote alternative destinations in the country.

    "The Philippines' emerging destinations are so diverse. Many are fast-becoming water sports hubs for scuba diving, deep-sea photography and surfing. Others offer family-oriented adventures at farm resorts and eco-parks, and still others provide wellness and spa services," Teo said.

    The tourism chief cited Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte, Siargao in Surigao del Norte, and Camiguin island province as top picks among destinations featured in the department's Go South, Go Mindanao campaign.

    Teo also touted Cebu and Bohol, as well as Coron and El Nido in Palawan, as among the best tourist sites in the world.

    Major developments pushing through

    But even as the Duterte administration embarks on the rehabilitation of Boracay, the construction of major commercial developments in the island – its first integrated resort and casino and a 1,001-room beachfront hotel – are pushing through.

    Listed gaming firm Leisure & Resorts World Corporation on Monday, March 19, disclosed that it recently bought a 23-hectare lot in Boracay to build an integrated resort and casino with Chinese partner Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited.

    On Wednesday, March 21, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) granted a a provisional license to Galaxy Entertainment for the $500-million integrated resort and casino in Boracay.

    The beachfront Hotel 101 Resort-Boracay is a joint venture project of Hotel of Asia, a subsidiary of DoubleDragon Properties Corporation, and Newcoast South Beach Incorporated. (READ: Hotel 101 pushing through despite planned Boracay 'shutdown')

    It will be located in Boracay Newcoast, a 150-hectare tourism estate of Global-Estate Resorts Incorporated (GERI), a Megaworld Corporation subsidiary.

    "We're still in the planning and design stages. That takes time – finalizing your plan and securing permits," Hannah Yulo, chief investment officer at DoubleDragon, had said. "I think the cleanup is going to be a win-win for all the developers in the island."

    Muntinlupa City Representative Rozzano Rufino "Ruffy" Biazon is among those opposed to the construction of a casino in Boracay.

    "The appeal of Boracay is that it’s a beach and nature destination. It grew without the need for a casino to attract visitors. I've said it before, a casino in Boracay is a bad idea," he said on his official Twitter handle.

    He said the government's approach to a Boracay clean-up "should be strategic and well thought out."

    "We might end up shooting ourselves in the foot by discouraging visits to these spots simultaneously," Biazon said. – With reports from Boy Ryan Zabal /

  7. #17
    The glaring double standard in Duterte’s Boracay shutdown

    If the problem is pollution, why the singular focus on Boracay? If the problem is congestion, why allow the construction of new, giant commercial developments? If the problem is lack of competition, why allow entrants in some industries like telco but not in casinos?

    JC Punongbayan

    Published 12:20 PM, March 22, 2018
    Updated 6:19 PM, March 22, 2018

    Boracay Island is now ground zero for tensions between the Duterte government and the private sector.

    On the one hand, President Duterte wants to shut down the “cesspool” that is Boracay Island for up to a year, ostensibly to allow it to rehabilitate. Spokesman Harry Roque even said Duterte wants to “blow up” using dynamites all structures and businesses that have thrived there illegally and at the expense of the environment.

    On the other hand, the private sector dreads the economic blowback of such a closure. Last weekend, Boracay residents and business owners held a symbolic protest at Station 2 – using lights and sand castles – denouncing the President’s threat to their jobs and livelihoods. For them, a year-long shutdown is just too much.

    But why is Duterte suddenly hot on the heels of Boracay? Why is he pursuing regulation as unprecedented and extreme as a total ban?

    There’s no doubt that Boracay’s environment needs fixing. Yet a number of glaring double standards in Duterte’s Boracay policy betray the fact that his interest in the island may be less about the environment and more about politics and the accommodation of certain private (Chinese) interests.


    The Boracay brouhaha started when Duterte declared in a forum that Boracay is a “cesspool” that “smells of sh*t” and therefore needs to be closed.

    There’s a grain of truth to this. Some establishments have indeed built illegal structures for many years, and not all are connected to the sewage and drainage system. The unsightly green algae that teem during the summer, although not unnatural, is also fed by phosphates and nitrates that leak from households and establishments.

    In other words, Boracay has fallen for a problem called in economics the “tragedy of the commons”: people, following their self-interest, end up overusing and depleting a shared resource like Boracay’s environment.

    But a total shutdown – which will inevitably kill business and tourism there – is hardly the best option on the table.

    For starters, Boracay’s coastal waters are safer and less polluted than Duterte is wont to claim.

    The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regularly monitors pollution levels in Boracay. In 2017 they recorded coliforms in the coastal areas to be at just 8 MPN/100 mL (MPN stands for “most probable number”).

    This is lower than the danger threshold of 100 MPN/100 mL, and also lower than the 101.2 MPN/100 mL recorded in 2012. In other words, Boracay’s waters are even safer for swimming today than several years back.

    Only in certain areas – like Sitio Bulabog – are coliform levels off the charts. In general, however, Boracay is not a “cesspool.”

    Even with the presence of coliforms, government has no excuse to cordon off the entire island. With this logic, other tourist hotspots like Panglao and Coron should also be shut down because of high coliform levels found in certain areas there.

    Although the DENR is indeed mulling such actions, where do we draw the line? How much tourism and local business is the government willing to sacrifice in the fight against pollution?

    At the same time, a shutdown spree would imply that all of Davao City’s beaches should also be closed down immediately, since in 2016 the DENR found some beaches there to have fecal coliform levels 110 to 617 times the acceptable level.

    Duterte’s singular focus on Boracay – and the lack of commensurate attention on other, more polluted tourist hotspots – suggests the presence of a double standard.


    Second, if Duterte were really concerned about congestion and excessive commercial activity in Boracay, why did he just allow the construction of a new megacasino and megahotel there?

    In late December, Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd revealed its plan to construct a $500-million casino-resort in Boracay. Galaxy’s officials – including their billionaire chairman Lui Che Woo – even paid President Rodrigo Duterte a courtesy call in Malacańang to discuss their investment.

    Hotel of Asia, Inc – a subsidiary of DoubleDragon Properties – will also start construction there of a 1,001-room beachfront hotel, set to be the largest in the country.

    Note that the construction of both these investments will proceed despite Boracay’s impending shutdown.

    Last Monday, Leisure and Resorts World Corp – the local partner of Galaxy – said they already bought a 23-hectare property south of the island for their megacasino. They also secured a provisional license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) that will allow them to begin construction.

    Asked if Galaxy need worry about Boracay’s impending closure, the Pagcor chair simply said, “No, they have to build. Opening is at least after 3 years.”

    Meanwhile, one official of DoubleDragon said, “I think the cleanup is gonna be a win-win for all the developers in the island…It’s very good for us because when it reopens we’re gonna come back with a stronger and world-class island.”

    Investments, whether local or foreign, are not bad at all. But allowing the construction of major projects in Boracay – while closing down local business and tourism for a year – also reeks of a double standard.

    Moreover, won’t a megacasino and megahotel just attract more tourists and, hence, just worsen congestion in the island? In 2017 tourist arrivals in Boracay hit a record high of two million, a 16% growth from 2016. Among foreign visitors, the most numerous – for the first time – were the Chinese.


    Finally, it turns out that Galaxy’s Boracay megacasino is linked to China’s global infrastructure push called the “Belt and Road Initiative.”

    Said Galaxy’s deputy chairman, “As you know, China’s relationship with the Philippines has been improving…Galaxy would like to play a role in the One Belt One Road initiative and we strongly believe the Philippines has great potential and offers attractive opportunities.”

    This is a very telling statement. In a previous article, I explained that the Belt and Road Initiative is China’s way of pushing its political and economic power worldwide through the construction of infrastructure projects in developing countries (and the issuance of loans therefor). (READ: What scares me the most about China’s new, ‘friendly’ loans)

    As Belt and Road projects spread worldwide, China’s private sector is positioning accordingly, and this includes the gaming industry: last year, another Macau-based casino hub revealed that it is building a $275-million casino complex in Cape Verde, off Africa’s west coast.

    Casinos are prohibited in many Asian countries, and the Philippines may yet be one of the best growth areas for Macau-based casinos, not just for our robust economic growth but also Duterte’s wholehearted pivot to China.

    In January, Duterte even went on to order Pagcor to stop the entry or creation of new casinos in the country to avoid “crowding” or “oversupply” in the industry. When asked if the incoming Boracay megacasino is covered by this ban, Pagcor said, “[Galaxy] met all the requirements before the President announced the moratorium.” What luck!

    This is not the first time Duterte has pushed for the entry of a Chinese firm in the country: last year he pitched the idea of bringing in a Chinese telco to break the duopoly between PLDT-Smart and Globe, ostensibly to promote competition in that sector.

    But as shown by his Pagcor directive, Duterte is also capable and willing to kill competition on a whim. How will we attract investments in other sectors if Duterte’s competition policy is stamped by double standards?

    More than meets the eye

    Environmental problems have hounded Boracay Island for many, many years, with little action from the local government. Hence many can’t help but see President Duterte’s recent interest in the island as a show of his strength and political will.

    Yet Duterte’s policies in Boracay are full of double standards. If the problem is pollution, why the singular focus on Boracay? If the problem is congestion, why allow the construction of new, giant commercial developments? If the problem is lack of competition, why allow entrants in some industries like telco but not in casinos?

    Finally, the growing influence of China on Duterte’s policymaking is also striking. Just how beholden is Duterte to the Chinese? How many more of his future decisions and policies will be tinged by Chinese interests? What’s in it for him? –

    The author is a PhD candidate and teaching fellow at the UP School of Economics. His views are independent of the views of his affiliations. Thanks to Kevin Mandrilla for useful comments and suggestions. Follow JC on Twitter: @jcpunongbayan.

  8. #18
    Senate bill seeks to create council to manage Boracay

    By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Visayas / 04:45 PM March 26, 2018

    ILOILO CITY - A bill seeking to create a council that will take over the management and protection of Boracay has been filed in the Senate.

    Authored by Sen. Franklin Drilon, Senate Bill 1765 – (An Act Creating the Boracay Island Council – was filed on March 20 and is pending before the Senate committees on environment and natural resources and on local government.

    The Boracay Island Council (BIC) will be created under the Office of the President. It will be composed of the secretaries of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Justice.

    The other members would include the administrator of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, director of the Land Management Bureau, administrator of the Land Registration Authority and the chair of the National Commission on Indigenous peoples.

    Representatives from local government units will come from the Aklan provincial government, Malay municipal government and the three villages on the island.

    The private sector will be represented through nongovernment organizations or community organizations.

    The BIC will “take over the management, development, regulation, protection and maintenance of the island, including its coastal resources and marine biodiversity.”

    In the introduction of the bill, Drilon said Boracay, the country’s prime tourist destination, was in a “state of disrepair” and facing several problems, including an inadequate sewage system, flooding, excessive algae, contamination of the waters, and deterioration of the coral reefs.

    “The situation calls for urgent and extreme measures to address the crisis,” Drilon said.

    “It is apparent that Boracay has suffered from the governmental system currently in place. It has failed to provide the island with protection and preservation that it needs,” he added.

    Boracay – which is composed of the three villages of Yapak, Balabag and Manoc-Manoc – is part of Malay, a first class municipality in Aklan province.

    The 1,032-hectare island was among the place classified as a tourist zone under Presidential Proclamation 1801 issued in 1978 by then President Ferdinand Marcos.

    With enactment of the Local Government Code in 1991, government power was devolved to local government units.

    Meanwhile, an inter-agency task force composed of the DENR, DILG and DOT have blamed local officials for the failure to enforce environmental laws and regulations and regulate the development of the island.

    On the other hand, local officials have also blamed national government agencies for lack of support, especially for critical infrastructure projects that are beyond the resources of the local government. /atm

  9. #19

    The Philippine Star 27 Mar 2018


    It is nearly certain Boracay Island will be shut down probably for six months, maybe for a year. Three government departments have suggested it. President Rodrigo Duterte has pronounced it. It may be a painful thing to do, but a necessary one too.

    Enforcing regulations and dismantling the hundreds of structures that violated those regulations can probably be done without closing down the island. This is what business operators on the island want.

    We know where they are coming from. They are fighting to keep tourist revenues flowing even as they cooperate in repairing their sins.

    But what about letting the island heal? This is a paradise exploited to the hilt. The beaches are dirty; the sea is toxic. Wetlands and forests have been stolen. The place is crammed with hotels and restaurants way beyond its carrying capacity. The island is on the brink of death.

    Cultural revolution

    Closing down Boracay should be the start of a cultural revolution. It should signal not only that nature must be respected; the commons must be held sacred.

    Filipinos have a weak sense of the commons. This is why our homes are so clean and our streets so filthy.

    We do not respect the public space. We dump trash onto the rivers. We dispose of our garbage by throwing them out to the streets. When there is open land, squatters promptly occupy it. Where there is public space, it is soon stolen.

    Boracay is the icon of a weak state and a failed civic culture.

    When it became the tourist draw that it is, the local authorities promptly failed exercising control over their jurisdiction. Illegal structures sprouted. The beach was colonized. No one wanted to pay to be connected to the sewage system. They flushed their dirty water out to the sea.

    All regulation evaporated as tourism money flowed. Commercial establishments crowded each other out. During high season, the island is as congested as Divisoria. There is no sense of planning here, no evidence of a governing aesthetic in the chaos of structures crowding the island.

    The beach is beautiful but the island is forlorn. It has become a tourist trap. Its sole purpose for being is to separate the tourist from his money. Any sucker who goes to Boracay today volunteers to be shaken down.

    This congested island imports its water and then flushes waste water to the sea. Little wonder the place has developed a distinct stink. It is only a matter of time that an outbreak of some disease happens here. This is such an unhealthy place.

    As the public sector failed to defend the commons, private enterprise just ran away with the island. Boracay is really the icon of everywhere in this country where the commons was stripped, the community simply burst unplanned and the environment brutalized with impunity.

    Being iconic, this is the place where the line should be drawn. It should be drawn with emphasis. Yes, it should be drawn with impunity.

    This is what all our other tourist towns should avoid becoming. Boracay is the place where the standards will be set – and enforced unremittingly. No prisoners must be taken here.

    Let the other tourist towns, with all their corrupt officials, sit up and pay heed. What is done in Boracay will send the message: You can be closed down too.

    If that message is sent, with the convincing underscoring, we might see regulations finally enforced everywhere. Talk tough; do tough.

    Duterte is just the man to do this. When he began his much maligned war on drugs, he told the police to give the enemy no quarter and the syndicates no rest. He wanted to get this done quickly and with full force until the human rights activists began mourning criminals losing access to due process.

    When a Filipina was found in a freezer in Kuwait, he imposed a ban on deployment of workers to that country. He has refused to lift that ban until Kuwait guarantees humane treatment for our workers.

    When yet another bus crashed last week, he ordered the transport company’s franchise cancelled and asked the police to arrest the owner. Despite the high season for travellers, he ordered all the 181 buses of Dimple Star grounded.

    Now lets see how the usual obstructionists might try to stop him from protecting the environmental integrity of our tourist towns.

    Public space

    When Bayani Fernando was MMDA chairman, he tried to preach the gospel of protecting the public space from private encroachment. Like Jesus at the Temple, like a zealot unleashed, he chased away vendors from the sidewalks and sent in the wrecking crews to tear up all hindrances to pedestrian movement on the sidewalk.

    For Fernando, the sidewalk epitomized the frontier where the state must draw the line for the greater good. He literally drew that line along the sidewalks, indicating the spaces that cannot be encroached upon. The maintenance of order in the public space emanated from beyond that line. The credibility of the state, the guardian of the commons, rests on that line being respected.

    I live in a public housing estate that is a microcosm of the larger society. In this small community, unit owners fence in public space, dump trash on the corridors and abandon decrepit vehicles in the already crowded parking areas. A third of the residents do not pay condominium fees necessary for security and ground maintenance.

    A new elected board of directors is trying to do a Duterte to reverse the decline of our community.

  10. #20
    Carrying capacity

    The Philippine Star 23 Mar 2018


    There is a very telling photo of Boracay that captures its problem. It shows Boracay from the air, looking like any neighborhood in Kyusi or Pasay or Mandaluyong. No one would have guessed it is the most beautiful island in the world.

    If the three Cabinet members in charge of the Boracay clean-up know what they are doing, they have to take this rare and expensive opportunity to address the real problem: unregulated growth that breaches the island’s carrying capacity.

    The President must also ban all new and even current construction of facilities that will aggravate the situation. DENR Secretary Cimatu is right in saying he doesn’t want any new establishments there.

    This means, no new mega gambling casino even from the President’s Chinese friends should be allowed. Double Dragon and Megaworld should be stopped from carrying out planned developments in Boracay.

    Any new mega development should be redirected to the mainland of Aklan. Indeed, Ramon Ang who built the Caticlan Airport, has plans of building a convention hotel not on Boracay itself, but in Caticlan. Guests can go to the Boracay beaches during the day and go back to the hotel in Caticlan at night to party or to sleep.

    We also forget we have 7,100 islands and many are as beautiful if not more beautiful than Boracay. Perhaps because most of our attention had been focused on Boracay, other islands with similar tourism potential remained undeveloped. It is like Imperial Manila sucking most of the economic opportunities from the other regions.

    The key lesson for Philippine tourism we should learn from the Boracay experience is the need for sustainability. Government allowed anyone who wanted to exploit the island to just take what they can for as long as they could. The day of reckoning has come.

    This reminds me of the tourism strategy of Bhutan, a small country in the Himalayas. Rosan Cruz, my long time associate in the world of corporate communications, just returned from a trip there and she was impressed with how they approach tourism.

    Of course Bhutan is a small country that’s difficult to visit and what works with them may not work with us. Still, they have ideas on sustainability we should learn.

    Bhutan does not officially limit the number of tourists they allow into the country, but they have instituted policies that go for quality than quantity... high value, but low impact. Their annual number of visitors is just about 100,000.

    Rosan related to me that there are two main things Bhutanese tourism policies protect: the environment and their culture. She said the country is very green with lots of trees… lots of nature. Bhutan is also very colorful with the citizens required to wear traditional dress daily.

    Tourists come in by Druk Air, which has limited flights from selected Asian cities. According to “all visitors must pay a daily tariff, starting at $200 per day during the low season.

    “However, the daily tariff involves most necessary expenses during a trip, including a three star hotel, all meals, a licensed Bhutanese tour guide, internal transportation, and equipment for treks. About $65 from this daily tariff is considered ‘sustainable tourism’ royalty which is used towards the country’s free health-care and education, as well as the building of tourism infrastructure.”

    Rosan told me their tour guide studied abroad at government expense and spends a lot of time with his family. Their government is concerned about Gross National Happiness rather than the usual GDP number we worship.

    The same website observed that: “The slow increase of tourism has allowed infrastructure to grow accordingly, without destroying the environment…”

    Oh well… the Himalayas had always had this image of Shangri-la to many of us. For those of us who live at sea level, we have to deal with the dirty challenges inflicted upon us by fast growing and undisciplined populations.

    We cannot make Boracay into a Shangri-la, but we must correct the damage from unregulated greed and growth. Otherwise, closing Boracay for a year will be a useless exercise. The energy department is excited about what they claim is a commercial oil discovery in Cebu. I hope they don’t intend to drill for oil in the trading floor of the stock exchange. Remember Redeco and its successors?

    This is an old story. We have drilled and confirmed the presence of oil in Cebu during the old PNOC days and found out it wasn’t commercial. But that didn’t stop some people from hyping the “find” and making a lot of money from clueless stock market investors.

    They had been extracting oil from that area at a very low rate of one barrel a day and selling to small scale users of bunker oil for years. I doubt that the new Chinese operator has new technology for enhanced oil recovery. The current leadership of the energy department should manage expectations to protect people from speculators.

    In 2015, a clueless president of PNOC-EC told reporters they are declaring a discovery of a gas field in Isabela as they managed to draw gas from a well they drilled.

    Of course there is gas there. PNOC discovered a limited amount of natural gas in that area decades ago. I know because I had to work that Sunday when we reported it. The gas reserve was only good for a small power plant that served the town for a few years.

    During the Arroyo administration, then energy secretary Vince Perez was excited by a natural gas find in Victoria, Tarlac. I told him we have drilled that area and if there was something there, we would have found it because Victoria was the hometown of then energy secretary Ronnie Velasco.

    But Vince was so sure about it. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he might have new technical data. As it turned out, I was right. Nada!

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