View Full Version : BORACAY, Paradise or Paradise Lost?

03-22-2018, 11:03 AM
Stalemate in Boracay

The lesson here concerns not the future of the island resort, which seems to be at the end of its life, but how to deal with other places being touted as ‘the next Boracay’

By: Clinton PalancaPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 07:10 AM March 22, 2018

We need to talk about Boracay. The only problem is that no one knows the whole picture of what’s happening there.

We’re like the proverbial three blind men feeling down different parts of an elephant, except that it actually isn’t an elephant and there are three other men who have appeared out of nowhere and are talking at the top of their voices all at the same time.

We don’t need heavy-handed censors. Far more effective is flooding the news and social media with contradictory reports and speculation disguised as facts, insinuations supported by either anecdotal or complete fantasy, and anger—always, lots of indignation and anger.

This week, the stalemate continues. The announcement has been made that the Environment secretary and the Tourism secretary are recommending closing down Boracay for a year.

The businesses in Boracay have staged a torchlight protest—which has gained them media attention, but ultimately will have little impact on the government, which is largely immune to quaint niceties of demonstrations or rallies anyway. So, singing “Kumbaya” with lit candles is something it can safely ignore.

It will be up to President Duterte, in his infinite wisdom, to play Solomon.

Years in the making

“Discovering” that Boracay is a cesspool is akin to an elderly spinster in a decaying mansion finding a room infested with cockroaches: “Inday! How long has this room been like this? Clean it up at once! Throw everything away!”

The problems in Boracay have been years in the making.

The airport is a disaster. How many times have flights been cancelled because of “sunset limitations?”

Since the time of Galileo, people have been able to calculate the time when the sun will rise and set. It’s printed on calendars hardware stores give away. It baffles me that airlines with advanced technology, every summer, go through the charade of slapping their heads and wringing their hands: “Sorry, but sunset has come—unexpectedly, despite it being the end of the day! We’ll have to cancel the flight!”

Despite the travails of getting to Boracay—which are comparable, actually, to traveling anywhere in the Philippines, except to places like Amanpulo—the island has continued to thrive.

Every time something big came along, like Discovery Shores or Shangri-La Boracay, people threw up their hands and said this was the end for the fabled island.

For purists, the beginning of the end came when electricity and running water came, but that’s just people like me.

Beautiful sunset

Despite the overcrowding, the pollution and the boatloads of tourists, Boracay continued to be a fun place. The sunset remained as awe-inspiring and beautiful as ever, the sand remained powdery fine, even if you had to share it with sweaty, blubbery hordes ready to jump one another.

Comparable to the thrill of the old Boracay, when you had to pump water from a well by the light of a kerosene lamp, was strolling down the four kilometers of white sand beach looking for a place to eat.

All the same, there was a sense of impending surfeit. It was like a big party at the end of the world, and everyone knew it had to end at some point.

But this sledgehammer approach is not the way. It is both impetuous and slothful, born of a mind-set that reacts to problems by destroying, rather than solving.

It also feels like a shakedown, although that may just be the cynical viewpoint.

The other great unknown is not just one, but two, big casinos will be built on the island. I don’t understand the lure of casinos in general, but from what I gather, the idea of casinos is to keep you indoors and unaware of the time as much as possible.

So, putting up a casino where you have to compete with the lure of kite-surfing and bikini-watching doesn’t really make much sense.

As a food writer—who is necessarily also a travel writer—I feel that the lesson to be learned here concerns not just the future of Boracay, which seems to be at the end of its life, but also how to deal with other places that are being touted as “the next Boracay.”

Batanes, for instance, is gaining popularity as destination. There used to be only a few flights a week, and if it is cancelled due to bad weather, you could be stuck there for an unknown length of time.

Popular destinations

Siargao is already densely populated, and Bohol is rapidly being gentrified. For places like Batanes, or even Sagada, which hasn’t been the same since you could drive up to it rather than cling to the roof of a jeepney, getting on the tourist trail doesn’t just mean urbanization—it’s also giving up a way of life.

For us, the only cycle we know seems to be discovering paradise, and then spoiling it—there’s no equilibrium that can be reached between man and nature, between crass mercantilism and respect for indigenous cultures and folkways.

This problem is not unique to us—just look at the hordes that stomp through the delicate wooden steps of the Potala Palace in Tibet, at the crumbling splendor of Venice (not to mention the horror-tourism of Auschwitz). Tourists must come mostly because they want to enjoy a place, not destroy it.

How to balance the very healthy and very desirable urge to travel and see new places, with the need to safeguard natural and human resources, requires great skill and acuity of judgment.

It is for this reason that government bodies like the Department of Tourism were created, and it is to their integrity and clear-eyed judgment that we must look now for a fair, balanced and long-term solution.

03-22-2018, 11:05 AM
But why build 2 casinos now?

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:30 AM March 22, 2018

Is Boracay in need of rehabilitation? Absolutely. Visitors, tourists and locals alike who deign to look more closely beyond the island paradise’s still dazzling centerpiece attraction — its 4-kilometer, powdery, white-sand shoreline — would not find it hard to spot troubling signs of environmental distress.

While the main beach front remains relatively pristine-looking, especially at low tide when the water recedes to expose a greater expanse on which visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk or marvel at a fantastic sunset, the back portion of the choice establishments lining the shoreline speak of a different reality.

To walk from the beach to the main road that serves as the central spine of White Beach, connecting Stations 1 to 3 on the island’s west coast where the majority of the tourist horde congregates, is to be rudely awakened to the shabby, unsightly ills that are blighting Boracay due mainly to its reckless, pell-mell development.

The dirt streets in between establishments leading to the highway are pock-marked with stagnant puddles of dank water. A rank smell pervades these corners, hinting at the huge sewage problem that bedevils the island, and that has been cited by Malacañang as its raison d’etre in calling for Boracay’s temporary closure, to allow it to “heal” and recover environmentally.

Lot owners appear to have been left on their own to build structures as they saw fit, leading to a crazy quilt of buildings and concrete developments with no organized design or master plan.

The main highway itself, narrow to begin with, is now a traffic-choked ribbon of dust and heat, with garbage in parts, unfinished civic works, flooded gutters, indiscriminately parked vehicles, and nonpedestrian spaces where tourists checking out the establishments lining the road are forced to dance a dangerous tango with cars and tricycles rumbling by.

Boracay is not only overcrowded and overburdened; clearly, it has also been grossly mismanaged. Where have all the millions of pesos in environmental fees collected from every visitor through the years gone?

From only about 400,000 in 2004, this spit of land now hosts over 2 million visitors a year, and the tide remains as yet unregulated.

“It is moving toward alarming levels in terms of carrying capacity and solid waste management,” Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources warned in January.

Having said that, is President Duterte’s blunt directive to close Boracay entirely, along with the threat to send no less than the Marines to enforce the closure order, the appropriate solution to the problem?

Boracay locals and establishment owners are within their right to chafe at this seemingly indiscriminate, knee-jerk course of action.

Where are the studies, first of all, to pinpoint which areas of Boracay need the most urgent attention, or whether such a blanket closure is indeed the most beneficial recourse?

And how would this impact on the 19,000 or so residents and workers whose livelihoods depend on the daily running of the island?

To those fundamental concerns have been added another wrinkle - one too suspicious to ignore.

Even as Malacañang has forcefully batted for shuttering Boracay completely on account of its supposed environmental ruin, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. confirmed that it has given the go-signal to a Chinese-backed casino entity to begin building an integrated resort on the island.

In fact, not one but two casino operations are set to rise - one approved back in 2014, and the other the new $500-million project by Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group that was signed this week.

Save Boracay, to be sure. But two giant corporate resorts further straining the island’s fragile condition, while also shoving aside, whether deliberately or not, smaller Filipino businesses and livelihoods - how is this in any way justifiable?

03-22-2018, 11:11 AM
LRWC buys 23-ha property for Boracay casino

By: Doris Dumlao-Abadilla - Reporter / @philbizwatcher Philippine Daily Inquirer / 03:07 PM March 19, 2018

A unit of gaming firm Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) has acquired a 23-hectare property in Boracay to build on the island’s first integrated gaming resort in partnership with Hong Kong-listed Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Monday, LRWC said a subsidiary acquired the property in Barangay Manoc-Manoc, located on the south end of the island.

“Consistent with the pronouncement of Pagcor (Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp.) chairperson Andrea Domingo, it is expected that Pagcor will issue a provisional license to Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG) before the end of this month,” LRWC said in its disclosure.

“Upon the issuance of the said license through the partnership between LRWC and GEG, an integrated resort will be constructed in the said property,” LRWC added.

Pagcor has imposed a moratorium on the opening of new casinos as Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is concerned about the proliferation of gambling. However, applications submitted before January 11 when such a policy thrust was firmed up will still be considered.

03-22-2018, 11:18 AM
2007 Boracay master plan raised urgency of solving environment woes

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:06 AM February 15, 2018

ILOILO CITY - The environmental problems plaguing the “island paradise” called Boracay did not come overnight.

The warnings have long been issued.

There were at least three comprehensive development plans for the island and several multisectoral summits to deal with the problems.

In 2007, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) presented to stakeholders a draft 25-year environmental master plan for the 1,032-hectare island.

The 130-page master plan covering 2008-2033 contained a comprehensive examination of the then environmental situation of the island. It also evaluated the impact of tourism-related activities and projects, and the effects of future development projects.

It aimed to preserve the environment and natural resources while ensuring the sustainable development of Boracay.

More than a decade ago, the plan already raised the urgency of the environmental situation brought by unregulated development and tourism boom.

“If the degradation of the total environment will be left unaddressed, the situation will only get worse unless action is taken promptly to reverse it.

“Denial, concealment or cosmetic dressing of the problems will only delay, or even worse, completely prevent action that could dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone on the island,” it said.

Causes of problems

The plan clearly identified the causes of the environmental problems: erection of resorts and tourism facilities along easement areas, hampering public access, destruction of the natural beauty of the coasts, indiscriminate development, illegal reclamation of wetlands, and clearing of forested areas for building construction.

It raised concern about the depletion of the island’s biodiversity and carrying capacity with the continued influx of tourists and migrants to the island.

The plan pushed for the shifting of major infrastructure support from the island to the mainland and regulating the daytime population by relocating the staff of commercial establishments to the mainland.

The DENR also implemented a moratorium on the processing and issuance of environmental compliance certificate (ECC) in 2008, which was officially lifted on July 15, 2014.

An ECC certifies that a project or activity will not pose environmental hazards or damage and that its proponents are capable of implementing measures to protect the environment.

The moratorium, however, did not stop construction activities because an ECC has not been made a requisite in applying for building permits.

Despite other efforts to solve the problems, including putting up a sewerage system, enforcement of easement rules and clearing of the beach of illegal structures, many problems have remained.

Independent council

“It’s really about [greed]. There is uncontrolled construction, opening up of all kinds of businesses and influx not only of tourists but also of workers who eventually settle on the already crowded island,” said Jim Sampulna, DENR Western Visayas director.

There have been various proposals to put up a management council for Boracay, similar to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) instead of placing its management solely on the local government of Malay town in Aklan province.

Many residents and business operators agree that one of the key long-term solutions to the island’s problems is putting Boracay under an autonomous administrative body, which is not headed by elected officials.

“In the long run, Boracay needs an independent management council made up of tourism experts, businessmen and a minority of local officials. This council must be free of politics and political influence,” an expatriate on the island said.

Cimatu’s turnaround

“Boracay can always be rehabilitated with a strong independent authority like the (SBMA),” a former tourism official said.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu himself made a similar proposal during his confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments.

But he made a turnaround during his visit to the island in January this year, saying he now favors an “expanded” task force composed of various agencies and local officials.

The resistance from local officials is understandable. While Boracay has only three of the 17 barangays of Malay (population: 53,000 as of 2015), it accounts for 80 to 90 percent of the municipality’s income.

The municipality earns from licenses, permits and fees mostly in Boracay and from the collection of the P75 environmental fee per tourist.

The Aklan provincial government also earns P100 in terminal fee per visitor at the Caticlan jetty port and passenger terminal.

But Boracay residents are hoping that all is not lost because even if the island is closed down, this will still be their home.

03-22-2018, 11:19 AM
Duterte eyes declaring state of calamity in Boracay

By: Jhoanna Ballaran - Reporter / @JhoannaBINQ INQUIRER.net / 08:19 PM March 06, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that he would declare a state of calamity in Boracay weeks after ordering a cleanup of the famous island in six months.

Duterte also cautioned courts not to interfere in the problem by issuing a temporary restraining order.

“I know it would work [inaudible]. And that is why I will be declaring state of calamity,” Duterte said in a speech during the oath-taking of Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission in Malacañang.

“And I would caution the courts not to interfere by issuing TRO because you would just exacerbate the situation. And the worst baka hindi kita paniwalaan,” he added.

Duterte said that the problem in Boracay is a public health and public safety issue, allowing him to issue such declaration.

“I can order for this thing to happen because it is public interest, public safety, and public health para malaman ninyo (for your information),” he said.

The President also ordered the local government unit of Boracay to cooperate with the national government and hasten the cleanup.

“For as long as there are shit coming out of those pipes draining to the sea, I will never give you the time of the day na bumalik diyan,” he said.

Last week, Interior Officer-in-Charge Secretary Eduardo Año said that the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) was considering the declaration of state of calamity over the tourist island and a 60-day shutdown of commercial establishments.

This after he ordered an investigation to look into the possible liability of local government officials over the “environmental degradation” of the world-famous beach.

The investigation, Año said, would probe local executives who issued building permits, occupancy permits and even business permits despite non-compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Early last month, Duterte ordered Año and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to fix the Boracay problem in six months.

03-22-2018, 11:20 AM
5 departments sharing task of saving Boracay

By: Jerome Aning - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:04 AM February 24, 2018

The government will launch a full-scale effort to restore and upgrade the maintenance of Boracay Island’s natural assets amid reports of seawater pollution, flooding, garbage disposal problems, encroachment and land-use violations, Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo said on Friday.

Teo said the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the public works, interior, environment and justice departments would be issuing a joint administrative order (JAO) to undertake the effort to save the island, world-famous for its powdery white sand and clear waters.

Teo, who heads the multiagency program called “Oplan Save Boracay,” said she met on Wednesday with acting Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

Tourism heritage law

“Boracay as it is now, remains among the world’s most beautiful islands as recognized by top international travel magazines, and that’s precisely why we are seriously concerned over these environmental threats that might affect its viability as an international tourist destination,” Teo said in a statement.

The DOT chief said she would also be pushing for a tourism heritage law that would ensure that stakeholders would take care of tourism destinations.

“If enacted and implemented, a tourism heritage law will be more effective in ensuring the preservation and protection not only of Boracay Island and its [waters] but all of the country’s natural tourist destinations,” she said.

Senate inquiry

Teo and other officials would be accompanying senators to Boracay next week in a Senate inquiry into the island’s problems.

President Duterte earlier warned that the government might close Boracay to tourism if the island’s sewage and garbage problems, as well as violations of environmental laws and regulations, were not resolved in six months.

An inspection led by the environment department showed over 60 establishments, including five-star resorts, have been dumping untreated sewage into the waters off barangays Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak that comprise Boracay Island, which is part of Aklan province’s Malay municipality.

Local government officials have received flak for the perennial problems of water pollution, lack of garbage disposal and violations in building regulations that prohibit construction within 30 meters from the shoreline.

Tourism Undersecretary for Public Affairs Katherine de Castro said a communications plan was being crafted to keep the world updated on the developments on the island.

“Certainly all is not lost for Boracay Island, and we owe our guests, who have set foot [on] its fine white-sand beaches and have come to love it and its people, to know that this government is taking measures to protect this paradise,” she said.

03-22-2018, 11:22 AM
Town gov’t accepts Boracay ‘cesspool’ tag as ‘constructive criticism’

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Visayas / 09:27 PM February 19, 2018

ILOILO CITY - Finally breaking its silence, the Malay municipal government in Aklan on Monday described President Rodrigo Duterte’s calling of Boracay Island as a “cesspool” as “constructive criticism” and offered its “full cooperation” to the six months deadline set by the President to address the island’s environmental problems.

But in an official statement, the first in 10 days since the President lambasted the environmental situation of the island, the Malay local government unit hit news reports showing images of algal bloom coating Boracay’s beaches.

The Malay officials said measures were being taken to address the environmental problems of the 1,032-hectare island.

Boracay is part of Malay town in Aklan province at the northern tip of the Panay Island.

Three of the town’s 17 villages of the town are in Boracay.

“The Local Government recognizes the existence of these problems and its responsibilities in order to uphold the environmental and social welfare of our beloved island,” the officials said in the statement.

They cited a contract signed late last year by the municipal government with top architectural firm Palafox Associates to formulate and implement a municipal tourism master plan.

Part of the plan is to decongest Boracay by integrating the mainland of Malay in the development of Boracay.

The officials also cited efforts to do the following:

- pursue and prosecute violators of the 30-meter beach setback
- organize a task force to rehabilitate and maintain the beauty of Bulabog Beach at the eastern side of the island
- clear residual trash from the island’s central material recovery facility
- strictly implement the construction of sewage treatment plant in establishments
- They said they “recognize that the President is not happy with what is happening (on) Boracay Island” despite these efforts.

“We do accept the constructive criticisms of our President and use it as the fundamental aspect of our improvements,” the officials said.

The local government said it will work closely with national government agencies to meet the President’s deadline, stressing the importance of the assistance of the national government to address the problems.

The local government unit will release this week a six-month action plan and convene of the existing municipal waste water management council and Bulabog Task Force to help in the implementation of the plan.

But the officials criticized television networks ABS-CBN and GMA for showing photos “sensationalizing the algal phenomenon” in Boracay.

According to the local government, the algal bloom happens only during summer.

“We condemn the recycling of photos for the selling of their ‘news.’ These news institutions gain profit from their news that ultimately degrades the image of Boracay Island which is highly dependent on the tourism industry. We advocate for responsible journalism,” the officials said in its statement.

Many business operators and residents have claimed that the algal blooms are seasonal, “natural,” and have been occurring even before the island became developed.

But environmentalists and even some long-time residents have raised warnings that the bloom is an indication of deteriorating water condition and of pollution.

In 2015, then Environment Secretary Ramon Paje noted that the algae bloom along the Boracay shoreline indicated water pollution resulting from “poor waste management with sewage being dumped into the waters.”

In a press statement issued on May 4, 2015, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources cited a study by conservation group Global Coral Reef Alliance that “the presence of green algae along Boracay’s shoreline during the calm season is a strong indicator of very high nutrient pollution that they are typically found right around sewage outfalls.”

In that statement, the DENR said the algae “die back in the rough season because waves dilute nutrients to lower levels and wash away the algae and the suspended sediments reduce the light levels. The algae become visible again in the next calm season.”

But the Malay municipal government said the media was “sensationalizing the algae phenomenon which ultimately hurts the industry of Boracay.”

“We can expect that the algae season will still happen during the summer of this year – and we are prepared for another barrage of news claiming that Boracay is ‘dirty’,” the statement said. /atm

03-22-2018, 11:24 AM
House tourism panel backs Boracay shutdown

By: Pathricia Ann V. Roxas - Reporter / @PathRoxasINQ INQUIRER.net / 05:06 PM March 21, 2018

The House of Representatives tourism committee has backed the proposal to temporarily shut down Boracay Island in a bid to rehabilitate the famous tourist destination.

Committee chair Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez said this on Wednesday, even as this may lead to an estimated P5 billion monthly loss once the island is closed.

In a committee report, the panel recommended the temporary closure of Boracay to immediately eradicate or drastically reduce the dumping of waste water into the beach.

The panel also directed an inventory of all pipes dumping waste water into the sea via drainage pipes, a crackdown on illegal sewerage connections and unwarranted permits to use drainage pipes, and declared the indefinite closure of violating residences and business establishments.

Gomez said the panel has taken into account the economic implications of a temporary closure, noting that in 2016, the island brought in P60 billion in tourism receipts.

“This is definitely a hefty sum, and both business establishments and residents will suffer the consequences. However, on balance, the Committee put more weight on the long-term viability and sustainability of tourism in Boracay, versus the short term economic collateral damage that comes with closing its doors to incoming tourists,” she explained.

“With a heavy heart, the Chair would like to convey deep empathy to those who will be affected by such a temporary closure. Temporary closure may be likened to a bitter pill that needs to be taken in order to cure the symptoms and causes of a nagging disease,” she added.

Gomez said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), Department of Tourism, and the Malay local government unit should formulate strategic and measurable courses of action, which would then be the basis of the declared time period for closure.

The long term solution for Boracay’s issues, however, is the ratification of a unified code of law that would govern all matters that bring about sustainable tourism in the Philippine, the lawmaker said.

“Fixing Boracay now, however painful, is plainly necessary,” she added, noting however, that the committee report did not tackle the plans to put up casinos in Boracay, as it was concerned with wastewater problems.

Department of Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año earlier floated the possibility of shutting down the island for six months, which President Rodrigo Duterte supported.

Duterte had also threatened to close the island as its garbage and sewage problem posed a threat to the health of tourists. /je

03-22-2018, 11:27 AM
‘Cesspool’ tag upsets Boracay residents

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Visayas / 12:52 AM February 12, 2018

Published: 7:11 p.m., Feb. 11, 2018 | Updated: 12:52 a.m., Feb. 12, 2018

Residents and business operators on Boracay Island are unhappy with President Rodrigo Duterte likening the world-famous tourist destination to a pit of human waste.

But they welcome his directive to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to solve the sewage and garbage problem in Boracay in six months, or he would shut down the island resort.

“[C]alling the island a cesspool shows the President is probably misinformed of the nature and magnitude of the problems,” said a resident business operator, who asked not to be named to avoid reprisal from the President or his supporters.

“Does he even think what will happen to the thousands of workers and their families who earn a living here if the island is closed down?” said the resident.

Another resident said the President’s hardline stance could move other officials to take action. “Maybe the governor, congressman and local government units will wake up.”

While residents say algal blooms naturally occur every summer in Boracay, researchers link their presence to human waste coming from nearby establishments. —JILSON SECKLER TIU

Unfinished drainage system

A business leader said Boracay’s problems had worsened due to the inadequate support from the national government, citing the island’s drainage system, which had yet to be completed more than 10 years after the project started.

“What we need is less reaction and condemnation and blame. We need actual ideas, solidly researched and organized plans, and leadership that will do the hard things to ensure Boracay can get through current difficulties,” said another business leader.

In a speech during a business forum at the Marco Hotel in Davao City on Friday, the President said: “I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool.”

He said Boracay’s sewage and garbage problem was destroying the island’s ecosystem and posing a threat to the health of millions of visitors.

“There will be a time that no more foreigner will go there because … when he goes back to the plane, he will be full of shit going back and forth to the restroom,” he said.

In illustrating how serious the problem was, the President said garbage was just 20 meters away from the beach.

“At a distance, you see white sand. But you go into the water, it’s smelly. Smell of what? Shit because everything that goes out in Boracay … it’s destroying the environment or the Republic of the Philippines and creating a disaster,” Mr. Duterte said.


Tourism officials affirmed the President’s assessment.

“It’s a shame that Boracay, which has repeatedly been recognized by prestigious travel magazines as the world’s most beautiful island, may yet end up a paradise lost if water contamination continues,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said in a statement.

Ricky Alegre, the Department of Tourism spokesperson, said a number of establishments were draining their sewage directly into the sea.

Of the 150 business establishments recently inspected by the government, only 25 were connected to the sewage line, he said.

Many establishments were also building too close to the beach and spilling over into the roads of the 1,000-hectare island, Alegre said.

That was why, Mr. Duterte said, Cimatu should solve the problem in six months. “I’ll give you six months. Clean the (fucking) thing.”

Task force

The President earlier approved the creation of a task force to deal with the problems in Boracay.

Cimatu himself had warned owners that their establishments on the island would be shut down if they were found releasing sewage into the sea.

He said a “a serious and honest-to-goodness crackdown” was needed to bring Boracay back to what it was - clean beach and unspoiled environment.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) earlier urged officials of Malay town, Panay province - to which Boracay belonged—to require establishments and residents to connect to the island’s sewerage system to prevent untreated wastewater from flowing into the sea.

“It’s not just establishments, but even the houses of local residents are not connected to the sewerage system,” Jim Sampulna, director of the DENR in Western Visayas, previously said.

2M tourists

Sampulna said overpopulation was also a problem for the island-resort. Some 50,000, many of them workers, live in Boracay.

The island also hosts at least 2 million tourists yearly and brings in P56 billion in annual revenues, according to tourism department and industry sources.

As a result, the carrying capacity of the island has been exceeded since 2010, according to Sampulna. - With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil and AFP

03-22-2018, 12:00 PM
Major Boracay resort bows to DENR crackdown

By: Jaymee T. Gamil, Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:30 AM February 24, 2018

The owner of West Cove resort on Boracay Island, one of the local establishments cited for violations of environmental laws, has agreed to dismantle structures built on rock formations and those not covered by a lease agreement with the government. —LYN RILLON

The owner of a controversial resort on Boracay Island on Friday agreed to voluntarily destroy illegal structures after Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu threatened to tear down part of the property.

Crisostomo Aquino, owner of Boracay West Cove resort, volunteered to demolish the structures he had built on top of rock formations and those not covered by a lease agreement with the government starting on Feb. 24.

Cimatu, who brought along a demolition team with him, rejected Aquino’s request to complete the demolition on five rock formations in 30 days, saying he would return on Saturday to ensure the work was being implemented.

Two other resorts that have deficiencies in permits and requirements also have voluntarily closed until they met all government requirements.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had previously issued a 25-year Forest Land Use Agreement for Tourism Purposes (FLAgT) to West Cove covering 998 square meters at Barangay Balabag in Boracay.

FLAgT allows the temporary use, occupation and development of any forestland for tourism purposes for a period of 25 years renewable for another 25 years. The agreement covers forestlands to be used for bathing, campsites, ecotourism destinations, hotel sites and other tourism purposes.

But the DENR canceled West Cove’s FLAgT on Sept. 12, 2014, for violating the terms of the agreement by putting permanent structures outside the allowed area.

No permits

Aquino had appealed the ruling with the Office of the President. There was no immediate word on what action had been taken on his appeal.

The resort became controversial for building structures on natural rock formations and operating for years without business and building permits.

In 2014, government agencies and Malay municipality, which has jurisdiction over Boracay, demolished illegal portions of the resort but West Cove went to the courts to stop the demolition.

Aquino has repeatedly denied the violations, alleging that he was being singled out.

Cimatu met Malay Mayor Ciceron Cawaling and Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores to discuss efforts to address sewage connection problems.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and his staff inspect natural and man-made features at the controversial West Cove resort, which volunteered to demolish its own illegal structures. —LYN RILLON

Rowen Aguirre, executive assistant for Boracay concerns of the Malay municipal government, said two small resorts had offered to temporarily shut down.

One was not connected to the sewage system and the other had no business permit, according to Aguirre.

The DENR has found at least 842 establishments that were violating environmental laws on the world-famous island, including those that built structures within 30 meters from the high-tide waterline and outside their allowed property limits.

In a statement on Friday, the DENR said it had issued show-cause orders to 85 establishments occupying protected forestland, giving them 15 days to explain why they should not be shut down. At least 89 more such show-cause orders had already been signed and would soon be handed down by the local DENR office.

The DENR also said 300 other establishments committed violations, mostly of the Clean Water Act, or had failed to connect to the proper sewage facilities, and 51 had so far been issued show-cause orders.

Cimatu said the crackdown would also cover violations on the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Earlier this week, he deployed “mission teams” to serve the notices and show-cause orders and to draw up an updated list of all violators in the three barangays in Boracay—Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak. Around 140 DENR personnel and members of the teams were assisted by the military and police in this mission.

At Station 1 in Barangay Balabag, Cimatu said he saw the “rampant disregard” by almost all beachfront resorts of the required 30-meter easement. Cimatu also observed a wetland occupied by houses in the same barangay.

Island cleanup

He lamented that only two of Boracay’s nine wetlands were unoccupied by people, citing a report by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.

A materials recovery facility at Barangay Manoc-Manoc that Cimatu had previously cleared of garbage was again being used as an open dumpsite.

The crackdown began after President Duterte gave Cimatu six months to clean Boracay, which the President described as a “cesspool” or else he would shut down the entire island.

“We will do our best to accomplish this mission. We can and we will do it,” Cimatu told members of the teams during a send-off ceremony held in the town of Nabas in Aklan, 25 kilometers from Boracay, earlier this week.

Farther to the southeast of the world-famous island, a DENR team was checking compliance of the Clean Water Act, the Solid Waste Management Act and the “no-build” zone regulation in timberlands by establishments on Bohol province’s Panglao Island.

“We have learned our lessons in the problems concerning Boracay,” Cimatu said. “We have to strictly enforce environmental laws in order to protect the country’s tourism sites so that the future generations will be able to enjoy them as well.”

“We will comb through all the establishments in Panglao and impose a crackdown on environmental violators. What happened to Boracay is a wake-up call to others,” Cimatu added.

03-22-2018, 12:02 PM
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.”

03-22-2018, 12:05 PM
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 Malacañang 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

03-22-2018, 12:05 PM
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.

03-23-2018, 08:16 AM
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 Malacañang.

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

03-23-2018, 10:26 AM
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!

03-23-2018, 10:30 AM
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 Malacañang 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 / Rappler.com

03-23-2018, 10:36 AM
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 Malacañang 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? – Rappler.com

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.

03-27-2018, 09:23 AM
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

03-28-2018, 07:04 AM

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.

03-28-2018, 07:06 AM
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 epicureandculture.com/bhutan-tourism-model/ “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!

03-28-2018, 07:09 AM
Palace: No summer shutdown for Boracay

The Philippine Star 23 Mar 2018

By ALEXIS ROMERO and ROBERTZON RAMIREZ – With Evelyn Macairan, Louella Desiderio

Tourists may still visit Boracay during the Holy Week because the island will remain open during the summer season, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the closure and rehabilitation of Boracay will not likely happen during the peak summer season.

As this developed, the island’s tourism stakeholders appealed for reconsideration of the planned closure, but should the government push through with it, to make it a partial closure.

The stakeholders, in a press conference, said the jobs of 36,000 people and some P56 billion in revenues from businesses in Boracay were at stake.

Leonard Tirol, Boracay Foundation Inc. board member, also appealed to Duterte and other government officials to hear them first, especially with the expected influx of tourists during the holiday break.

In another press briefing, Roque said: “Proceed to Boracay, especially since it’s Holy Week. I don’t think any closure will happen during the peak season of Boracay. We are looking at possibly, if the President finally accepts the recommendations, lean season.”

Roque said the President has not made a decision on whether to accept the recommendation of the agencies tasked to look into the environmental problems of the island.

The environment, interior and local government, and tourism departments have recommended the one-year closure of the world-famous tourist spot to allow its rehabilitation.

“No specific instruction has been made by the President and if he has made a decision then, I would most certainly be the first to announce it. So, right now, there’s not been any decision,” Roque said. “Right now, it’s status quo.” President Duterte said on Tuesday he would support the recommendation of the interior and local government on the Boracay clean-up.

Roque said he would ask Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco whether the environmental issues of Boracay would be discussed in the next Cabinet meeting on April 3.

The President has likened Boracay to a cesspool because of the lack of sewerage system. He has also threatened to sue local officials who failed to address the island’s environmental problems.

No new improvements during moratorium

Roque also stressed that no new improvements would be allowed in Boracay while the six-month moratorium on new construction is in place, following reports about plans to establish two casino resorts in the island.

“I don’t really know how the temporary closure will affect the casinos because they will have to construct. But what I do know is, there’s a moratorium right now in place for any further improvements in Boracay,” Roque said.

“Warning to the developer, they should know that all their development plans hinges on what the President will decide on the issue of Boracay. But right now, there’s a moratorium on new improvements. So, they can’t build, even if they wanted to today, because of the moratorium,” he added.

The two companies that are eyeing casino operations in Boracay are Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group and Resorts World Manila, according to earlier reports.

Roque said new establishments would have to comply with environmental standards, including the maintenance of a sewerage system.

“If there is a closure or whatever happens to Boracay, what’s imperative now is to lay down expanded infrastructure for both drainage and sewage treatment facilities. And that’s the argument for closing Boracay, because you can’t dig the road, you can’t put wastewater treatments under the road, you can’t expand the road if you have people, tourists lurking around Boracay,” Roque said.

“I do not know if zerodischarge will be part of the recommendation for Boracay, I would think, it should. But at the very least, all resorts should have their wastewater treatment facilibusinesses ties,” he added.

Roque said Boracay is being rehabilitated to make it sustainable and conducive to huge developments and future businesses.

The spokesman also refuted claims that the Boracay closure was intended to allow the entry of huge like casino operators.

“I don’t think so. Because if they build a facility as big as they want to build, perhaps the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) will require what Shangri-La Boracay has, which is zero-discharge. When we talk about zero discharge, that means they are actually reusing all wastewater, treating it and reusing it either for flushing or for gardening purposes,” Roque said.

“So, an establishment as big as this casino will probably be required to have not just an STP (sewage treatment plant), but the water recycling treatment facility. So the size will not matter for as long as necessary infrastructure are there.”

Stakeholders want to be heard

The group of tourism stakeholders in Boracay is seeking an audience with Duterte to present their proposed solutions and their point of view on the issue.

Tirol said a partial closure would also be more acceptable so as not to adversely affect tourism in the island. He added it should also not be done during the peak season.

Tirol said the closure should be done September to November, when only a few tourists are expected to visit Boracay, instead of April when most Koreans and other nationalities travel to the island.

But others suggested that the partial closure be done in June or the rainy season.

Jose Clemente III, Tourism Congress of the Philippines president, said “what we are looking for is a general dialogue between the government and stakeholders” and at least a year to prepare before a shutdown would be enforced.

Aside from the partial closure, the stakeholders are also proposing to give them 60 days, from April to May, to undertake individual rectification, clean-up and rehabilitation of their respective properties.

They also proposed that the government shut down only the establishments that violated the environmental and zoning regulations and the submission of the assessment of the solutions before the 60day period ends.

Clemente said they were optimistic that the President and all concerned government agencies involved in the issue would listen.

“More than the effect of closure to individual business entities, the contribution of this (island) to the country’s economy cannot be disregarded,” the stakeholders said in a statement.

Sonia Lazo, managing director of Intas Destinations, warned it would take a year or two before the Philippines can regain the country’s tourism salability if Boracay will be closed.

“We are off here in our position in the world travel industry, but once we have negative news like the closure of Boracay, then it will fall down. It will all crumble. A lot of hard work for all of us again,” Lazo said.

“Our recovery will be far more difficult,” she said, specifically citing the European market.

Reacting to the Department of Tourism (DOT)’s claim that tourists can visit other destinations, Clemente pointed out that the readiness, capacity and security of other destinations should be addressed.

While the issue on Boracay closure is raging, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said it will improve the infrastructure in the island to make travel more convenient.

In a statement, the DPWH Region 6 Director Wenceslao Leaño reported to Public Works Secretary Mark Villar that the construction for the P220-million access road project to Caticlan Airport is already underway, along with the improvement of Boracay Circumferential Road with an allocation of P50 million.

Sam Miguel
03-30-2018, 07:56 AM
Palace defends $500-M casino-resort plan in Boracay

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 22 2018 02:48 PM

MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday defended the government’s approval of the construction of a casino-resort in Boracay even after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a rehabilitation of the island paradise due to its worsening water pollution problem.

Macau casino giant Galaxy Entertainment and its Filipino partner, Leisure and Resorts World Corp, are expected to start construction of a $500 million integrated resort on a 23-hectare property in Boracay next year after they signed a provisional license with the state’s gaming regulator.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the main reason of the President for ordering the rehabilitation of the island was its poor sewerage system which has led to wastewater being dumped to the sea. He said the planned casino construction will surely not skirt its obligation to have its own water treatment facility.

“An establishment as big as this casino will probably be required to have not just an STP (sewage treatment plant) but a water recycling treatment facility,” Roque said in a news conference in Malacañang.

“The size will not matter for as long as the necessary infrastructure are there.”

The government is planning a closure of Boracay to tourists this year to give way to a massive cleanup.

The government granted the provisional license for the construction despite the President’s imposition last month of a moratorium on the construction of new casinos.

Roque earlier explained that the deal may have been in the works long before the President issued the directive.

Nonetheless, he warned the casino developer that “they should know all development plans hinge on what the president plans on Boracay.”


Boracay tourism stakeholders, meanwhile, expressed dismay over the planned casino construction.

Boracay Foundation board member Connie Helgen said the island, known for its picturesque waters and sunsets, should not be marketed as a gambling destination.

Helgen said the island's natural resources, water activities, and booming night life are enough to attract tourists to the island and sustain the livelihoods of the locals.

"Boracay island is for beach lovers. Boracay is a wholesome destination. Why go to Boracay to play casino? There are so many casinos in Manila and in Macau," Helgen said.

"Having a casino here would just affect the social environment of Boracay. The influence of casino to the people there, there's no telling what will happen. We hope the President will reconsider.

Construction of the casino will take 3 years and will generate "hundreds of jobs," Galaxy vice chairman Francis Lui said. The joint venture expects $100 million in gaming revenues from the project once it is operational, he said.

"What excited us, one of the reasons, has to be the new airport which has been built last year, giving direct access to international market to bring in some high-end customers," Lui said.

Galaxy had consulted Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp on the project as early as July last year, said PAGCOR chairperson Andrea Domingo.

Domingo said the integrated resort would be built on "raw land." She earlier said that Galaxy had assured Duterte during a recent meeting that the company would preserve the environment.

Leisure and Resorts World founder Alfredo Benitez, an incumbent congressman, said he expected Galaxy to preserve the environment like it did in its projects in Macau and Hong Kong.

Benitez, an administration supporter, is being considered as one of the possible candidates in the senatorial lineup of PDP-Laban, according to the ruling party’s stalwarts, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aqulino Pimentel III.

- with Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Sam Miguel
03-30-2018, 07:57 AM
^ This is the type of news that really gets us. You want a one year moratorium on all construction and development and yet you have this going on. What are we supposed to think?

Sam Miguel
03-30-2018, 08:12 AM
Compliant resorts can remain open during Boracay closure, but…

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo - March 26, 2018

COMPLIANT resorts in Boracay will be allowed to operate after April 26, the possible date of closure of the island. The punch line is, tourists won’t be able to set foot on it and will be physically blocked at the jetty port, according to an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“We’re not shutting down the businesses on the island, that’s clear,” DILG Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs Epimaco V. Densing III said in an interview with CNN Philippines’s The Source. “Those who are compliant can still be open. Those who are noncompliant, we will close them. The irony is, we will block their guests at the jetty port. We will have a system where foreign and local tourists will not be allowed to enter the island. [Compliant resorts] can operate; they just won’t have guests.”

This developed as the Department of Tourism (DOT) said it was already reaching out to popular online travel-booking sites to help tourists rebook their vacations in Boracay without penalty.

In text message to the BusinessMirror, DOT Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Communications and Special Projects Frederick M. Alegre said: “Communications with them are ongoing. We started with TripAdvisor because we have an ongoing project with them.”

Other popular booking sites include Agoda, Hotels.com and Booking.com, which have varying policies on issuing refunds for customers, which depend on a site’s agreement with the individual hotels.

But he expressed confidence that these booking sites will allow refunds due to “force majeure, because it’s a much-needed environmental cleanup from human-induced damage.”

He added that local airlines have already said they would issue refund on tickets issued to Boracay-bound passengers and waive rebooking fees. “If the airlines can do it, why not the hotels and resorts, and tour operators?” Alegre asked.

According to Agoda, “A force majeure event is any event beyond the ‘Covered Parties’ control and can include, but not limited to, natural disasters, weather conditions, fire, nuclear incident, electro-magnetic pulse, terrorist act, riots, war, arson attacks, insurgency, rebellion, armed hostilities of any kind, labor disputes, lockouts, strikes, shortages, government actions or restraints, pilferage, bankruptcy, machinery breakdown, network or system interruptions or breakdown, internet or communications breakdown, quarantine, epidemic, pandemic, etc.”

Research done by TripAdvisor showed that Boracay was the second most viewed city in the Philippines after Manila, for the period January 2015 to September 2017.

The research also noted that “travelers from the long-haul flight countries tend to click to book accommodation for their Philippines holidays over 70 days before their travel. On the other hand, markets like Singapore, China and South Korea click to book their stay less than two months prior to travel.” The long-haul destinations include the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, reflecting the top long-haul tourist markets in Boracay.

Data from the DOT showed foreign tourists in Boracay last year reached some 1.05 million, most of whom came from China (375,284); South Korea (356,644); Taiwan (40,802); the US (22,648); Malaysia (20,585); the UK (17,416): Saudi Arabia ((15,944); Australia (15,365); Russia (14,074); and Singapore (9,897).

Task Force Boracay, which is composed of the DILG, DENR and DOT, has recommended to President Duterte to put Boracay under a state of calamity, and close it for six months to allow rehabilitation work to commence.

Meanwhile, Densing told this paper that local executives, who were sitting in office starting 2008, will be charged with administrative offenses for allowing the environmental and easement violations on the island. The DOT determined that Boracay’s carrying capacity had been breached in 2008.

“The case buildup is from 2008…serious negligence of duty. Mayor [Ciceron] Cawaling is the same mayor during that time,” he stressed. John Yap was the mayor of Malay from 2010 to 2016, before being succeeded by Cawaling.

The DILG official was silent, however, on the culpability of local executives from the DENR who reportedly failed to enforce environmental laws, such as the Solid Waste Management Act and Clean Water Act. But DILG Officer in Charge Eduardo M. Año has said DENR officials would not be spared from his agency’s investigation.

Densing told CNN Philippines that the DILG has been gathering evidence on these local executives for the last three weeks. “We met last Friday with all the lawyers and the Boracay investigative unit of the DILG. We’ll be drafting a complaint by this week, and hopefully we can give the same complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman before April 14.”

He said those to be charged with administrative offenses, “initially, we’re looking at local chief executives, most probably the mayor, most probably the Municipal Council, wipe out sila, the barangay captains, and even the governor. The only thing is, the gathering of evidence on the governor isn’t complete.”

Carlito Marquez was the Aklan governor in 2008 until 2013, while Florencio Miraflores is the incumbent, and has been governor since 2014.

Sam Miguel
03-30-2018, 08:28 AM
Construction of casino contradicts moves to rehabilitate Boracay — Alejano

Published March 29, 2018 1:09pm


For Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano, the construction of a casino in Boracay Island contradicts the government's move to clean it up, as it will only aggravate the environmental issues already hounding the popular tourist destination.

In a statement, Alejano expressed his opposition to the construction of the $500-million casino in Boracay to be operated by Macau-based company Galaxy Entertainment Group.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) signed the provisional license for the casino resort on March 21, or just about a month before the recommended six-month closure of Boracay for rehabilitation starting April 26.

"Kung ang talagang hangarin ng Pangulo ay ang pagsasaayos at pagbabalik ng ganda ng Boracay, isang malaking pagkakamali ang pagtatayo ng casino sa isla," Alejano said.

"This is a contradiction amid the supposed cleanup of Boracay. The approval of the construction of a casino just after the orders of the President of a close-down is highly suspicious," he added.

Alejano said that if the government still envisions Boracay as a top tourist destination in the world, then it should put more consideration on its environmental well-being than affording favors to foreign companies.

"I understand that we should not prohibit the development of Boracay Island, but the development should first and foremost respect the environment," he said, noting that it was the purpose of House Bill 7077 that he filed.

The lawmaker stressed the need for strict regulation on the utiliization and development of the island resort in compliance to the defined land use plan.

A Boracay Island Council should also ensure that all plans, policies and projects for the island are coordinated and consistent, he added.

"We will reap more benefits through environmental protection rather than solely looking at businesses which only provide short-term profits but destroy our environment in the long run," Alejano said.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu himself also admitted that there is a contradiction as regards the rehabilitation efforts in Boracay and the planned construction of the casino there. — LA, GMA News

Sam Miguel
03-30-2018, 08:57 AM
DENR chief admits contradiction in casino construction and rehab efforts in Boracay

Published March 26, 2018 6:51pm


BORACAY, Aklan — A Macau-based casino operator may have secured a provisional license to operate a $500-million casino in Boracay, but it will still have to meet Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) requirements before it can build structures on the island.

In an ambush interview after meeting with Boracay stakeholders, Cimatu acknowledged that moves to free up space in Boracay seem to be contradicted by the plan of Galaxy Entertainment Group to construct a casino in a 23-hectare property on the island.

When asked if there is a contradiction, Cimatu said: ‘’There is. Talagang ganun nga.’’

Cimatu said he has tasked the DENR ecosystems research and development bureau to determine Boracay’s carrying capacity, or the maximum number of people that could fit in the island.

“The first research was 10 years ago and at the time they said that it’s already about to reach the end of its carrying capacity. That was 10 years ago,’’ said Cimatu.

Cimatu said the new study will be “the biggest factor’’ in the environmental assessment the DENR will make when it decides whether to grant the casino an environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

“It will be science-based and it will be on this carrying capacity,’’ said the environment secretary.

An ECC is required before construction of a new structure can begin on the island.

As of now, Galaxy has yet to submit application documents to the DENR, Cimatu said.

PAGCOR, Galaxy, and its Filipino partner Leisure and Resorts World Corporation signed last week the provisional license for the planned integrated resort casino, which can have up to 250 rooms.

Rehabilitation efforts in Boracay began in February after President Rodrigo Duterte called the world-famous island destination a “cesspool.”

The President’s statement triggered a crackdown on establishments in the island over violations of environmental laws.

Some structures were found to be illegally built on wetlands. Hundreds were found to have violated easement rules or were discovered to have failed to connect to a proper sewerage system.

Given the need for massive reconstruction in the island, the DENR, along with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Department of Tourism recommended Boracay’s closure for six months starting on April 26.

President Duterte has stated that he is inclined to follow the recommendation but has yet to issue a final, official order. — RSJ, GMA News

04-04-2018, 06:56 AM
DENR wants illegal land titles on Boracay cancelled

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:24 PM April 03, 2018

ILOILO CITY - The government is still seeking the cancellation of land titles issued illegally by personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) on Boracay Island seven years ago.

The case against eight DENR personnel in Western Visayas found guilty of administrative liabilities for the issuance of the land titles has not been resolved with finality even as the agency is cracking down on environmental violators in Boracay.

The DENR central office has filed complaints for the cancellation of titles and reversion against 18 title holders for 21 homestead patents covering 70,573 square meters or 7.05 hectares.

The Office of the Solicitor General representing the DENR filed the complaints involving seven of the homestead patents in courts in the capital town of Kalibo in Aklan, according to documents from the DENR Western Visayas office.

The homestead patents were issued to lots ranging from 58 square meters to 14,748 sqm located in Barangays Balabag and Manoc-Manoc, two of Boracay’s three villages.

The complaints involved homestead patents issued to Ramon Cojuangco Jr., Luna Villaruz, Alicia Sacapano, Juvy Gross, Dolores Latoy, Andro Gabay, Haide de los Santos, Araceli Gabay, Geovanni Pascual, Nelly Mancera, Jean Castillo, Dolores Sacapano, Rosemarie Bettschen, Nora Castillo, Jocelyn Sualog, Naomi Sastre, Belinda Martinez and Amalia Solis.

The case stemmed from the issuance of the patents to property occupants from November 2009 to December 2010.

A homestead patent is a mode of acquiring a title for public lands areas categorized as alienable and disposable and which are used for agricultural purposes.

After an internal investigation in 2011, the DENR declared the issuance of the homestead patents as invalid. It said the issuance of homestead patents was irregular because the lots involved were commercial or residential but declared as agricultural.

The agency relieved and filed administrative complaints against several of its personnel for issuing the homestead patents, issuing multiple patents to a patentee when the law allows only one, and issuing patents to lots covering or overlapping the 15-meter road easement.

In a 38-page decision issued on April 27, 2017 and released on May 9, 2017, then Environment Secretary Regina Lopez found eight DENR personnel in Western Visayas guilty of administrative liabilities.

Lopez ordered the dismissal from service of Pedy de Pedro (land management specialist) and Algaro Nonan (deputy public land inspector) who were found guilty of grave misconduct and dishonesty.

Merlene Aborka (Boracay community environment and natural resources officer) and Antonio Luis (officer-in-charge of the Aklan provincial environment and natural resources office) were found guilty of gross neglect of duty and meted each a suspension of six months without pay.

Also meted with administrative sanctions were Emmanuel Tipgos (engineer) who was found guilty of simple misconduct and simple dishonesty and meted a six-month suspension without pay.

Mamerto Caballero (chief, regional surveys division) was ordered suspended for three months without pay for simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty.

Althea Acevedo (chief, technical services section) and Romulo Sumaculub (chief, original and other surveys division) were each meted a three-month suspension without pay for simple neglect of duty.

The decision is pending an appeal before the office of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

04-04-2018, 07:54 AM
Environmental issues have been hounding Boracay for 20 years

Inquirer Research / 07:23 AM April 04, 2018

Coliform bacteria scare and other environmental issues have been hounding Boracay Island in Aklan province over the past 20 years, mostly blamed on inadequate septic and sewage systems.

Because of the drop of tourist arrivals in 1997 due to the increase in coliform levels, Boracay built a potable water supply system, sewage treatment plant and solid waste disposal system that was run by the Philippine Tourism Authority.

Seven years later, in 2004, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reported that the coliform crisis persisted as not all businesses on the island to the sewage system.

At that time, only 50.5 percent of hotels and restaurants and only 24.9 percent of the households had installed pipelines connecting to the centralized sewage treatment plant that began operations on the island in 2003.

In 2009, after waters off Boracay were contaminated with fecal coliform generated by human wastes, Boracay Island Water Co. won the contract for the project to give Boracay improved supply of potable water and efficient sewage system.

Algal blooms appear

In 2011, a study conducted by the McKeough Marine Center, which is based at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, said that reefs in Boracay had reached an alarming state of deterioration and urgently needed protection and rehabilitation.

Beginning in 2015, residents observed that algal blooms began to appear as early as January or February and occurred longer.

Before, the algal blooms appeared only in March and April, and only in the area where tourism development was first concentrated.

Algal bloom along Boracay’s shoreline indicated water pollution resulting from “poor waste management with sewage being dumped into the waters,” the DENR said.

Many business operators and residents claimed that the algal bloom was seasonal and “natural,” but environmentalists said it was an indication of feces and other waste materials polluting the water.

The DENR said the Environmental Management Bureau in Western Visayas reported that coliform bacteria levels in a water sample taken from a drainage outlet that emptied into the sea at Sitio Bulabog exceeded safety standards.

The coliform bacteria levels reached 47,460 mpn (most probable number) per 100 millimeter. The safe level for water for swimming and other human contact activities is 1,000 mpn/100 ml.

Apart from the serious health and sanitation hazards, coliform bacteria found in human and animal waste could also adversely affect marine life and coral reefs.

Source: Inquirer Archives

04-04-2018, 07:55 AM
Duterte, Cabinet to tackle details of Boracay rehabilitation

By: Ben O. de Vera, Leila B. Salaverria - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:24 AM April 04, 2018

Proposals on how to clean up and rehabilitate Boracay Island may finally be discussed when President Rodrigo Duterte meets with his Cabinet on Wednesday, according to Malacañang.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the interagency task force had submitted a detailed justification for its suggestion to shut down the island for six months.

The task force is made up of the Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The Department of Trade and Industry, for its part, proposed that the closure be done in phases instead for the sake of workers and businesses on the island.

“There’s a Cabinet meeting. The final action on Boracay may be taken up there,” Guevarra said.

On Monday, he said the Palace had asked the task force to elaborate on its proposal for a six-month total closure of Boracay, since it initially sent a two-paragraph recommendation.

Malacañang has received the new report, Guevarra said on Tuesday.

The Office of the President will study the different proposals on Boracay and will make its own recommendation to Mr. Duterte.

The President has ordered the cleanup of the resort island after describing it as a cesspool due to the lack of proper sewage facilities.

A temporary closure of Boracay will have a minimal impact on the economy, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

Neda Director Reynaldo R. Cancio said on Tuesday that a six-month closure of the island would reduce GDP (gross domestic product) growth at the most by 0.1 percentage point.

Neda Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon nonetheless said the government would ensure that the welfare of small businesses and their workers was protected.

Edillon called on local government units to coordinate closely with the Department of Tourism for possible placement of the workers in nearby establishments not affected by the closure.

04-04-2018, 07:58 AM
Boracay woes show failure of local gov’t

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:24 AM April 03, 2018

(First of three parts)

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan - On the beach of Bulabog along the eastern coastline of Boracay, Ming Chen, her three female friends and their children are picking up trash.

They are doing their share in keeping Boracay a “jewel” island, said Ming, a resident of Hong Kong who spends every year up to 10 days here, her favorite vacation place, for the past 20 years.

She is saddened that the island has “really evolved not for the better.”

Days earlier, the Duterte administration announced that it would shut down the world-renowned tourist destination to deal with its worsening environmental and other problems.

“You just want to do what you can,” Ming told the Inquirer. “But who is really responsible [for] cleaning up? Our children have grown up on these beaches.”

Many residents and business operators, who support the national government’s crackdown on violations of environmental and local laws, want only offenders to be held accountable, especially those who have failed to enforce the laws and regulations on the 1,032-hectare island.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is looking into administrative and criminal charges against local officials and private individuals who allowed the unregulated development of the island and failed to stop the illegal discharge of sewage, the building of structures in wetlands and forest areas, and other wrongdoing.

Violations of ordinances

Malay municipality, which has jurisdiction over Boracay, has approved at least 52 ordinances to protect the environment. These cover marine conservation and protection, garbage and sanitation, zoning and construction regulation, and even stray dogs, smoking, signs and billboards.

But residents and tourists have lamented the wanton violation and disregard of these laws.

“We … are bearing the brunt because of these corrupt and negligent officials,” said one woman, who asked not to be named as she was related to some of the officials.

One key measure, Municipal Ordinance No. 188, which was passed in 2003, calls for mandatory connection to the sewerage system of all commercial establishments and homes within 61 meters of the system.

Those outside are required to build sewage or wastewater treatment plants.

Violators face a fine of P2,000, cancellation or denial of business permits, and imprisonment of one day to six months.

Instead of complying with the law, many commercial and residential buildings discharge illegally into canals intended only for rain and surface run.

Revising local laws

Local officials have also revised some ordinances to cater to the tourism boom, further straining the island’s natural resources.

In 2013, the municipal council passed Ordinance No. 328, which allows the construction of up to five-story (16-meter) buildings on lots of 5,000 square meters to 20,000 sq m (two hectares) and six-story (20-meter) buildings on lots of at least two hectares.

It revised the law that allowed only up to four-story buildings on lots of at least 1,000 sq m. Originally, only single-story structures made of local materials were allowed.

“[Municipal] and provincial officials have been complacent and helpless [in enforcing the rules and regulations],” said an expatriate, who operates a business on the island.

Violations are tolerated due to political accommodations by officials who come from a few intertwined and entrenched families, the expatriate said.

Ciceron Cawaling is serving a fourth term as Malay mayor until 2019. He occupied the post from 2001 to 2010.

John Yap served as mayor for two terms from 2010 to 2016. He is the son of Jose Yap, a former Malay mayor and former Aklan provincial board member.

Environment, terminal fees

Local officials are also being investigated in connection with the collection and use of environmental, terminal and other fees from tourists.

Municipal Ordinance No. 250, passed in 2005, mandates the collection of an environmental fee every time a tourist goes to the island. The fee goes to a trust fund.

Though the fund is allocated “exclusively for environmental and tourism programs and projects” in Malay, the amount is shared by the municipal government (85 percent) and provincial government (15 percent).

From P50, the environmental fee was increased to the current P75.

The fees collected at the Caticlan port significantly increased from P34.64 million in 2010 to P116.48 million in 2017. Total collection from 2010 to 2017 reached P685.64 million.

Municipal officials have repeatedly said the fees are used for environmental projects and expenses, especially garbage collection and transfer from Boracay to the mainland.

No regular, detailed report

But there has been no regular and detailed reporting of these expenses.

“They are not transparent at all with these fees,” said the expatriate, who has been living on the island for 30 years but asked not to be identified so as not to antagonize the officials.

Cawaling has denied being remiss in his responsibilities, stressing that the problems and concerns of Boracay could not be solved by the municipal government alone.

He said he was ready to face any charges to be filed by the national government against him.

Officials to be charged

Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III of the DILG, chair of a 12-member special investigating team, said a complaint for serious neglect of duty would be filed in the Office of the Ombudsman against officials on or before April 14.

Asked who would be named respondents, Densing said these would likely include “many” officials of Malay town.

He said that aside from elected officials, the respondents would include those responsible for issuing building permits.

Erring DENR personnel

Residents and business operators are also demanding that officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Tourism also be investigated for the widespread violation of environmental and other laws and regulations.

On April 27 last year, then Environment Secretary Regina Lopez found eight employees of the DENR office in Western Visayas guilty of administrative offenses related to irregularities in the issuance of homestead patents in Boracay.

The homestead patents, which are intended for agricultural lands, were issued by the DENR employees although most of the properties have been used for commercial and residential purposes, according to a department investigation.

Lopez ordered the dismissal of two employees for issuing homestead patents covering 31 lots with a total area of 9.75 hectares. She suspended two others for six months and another two for three months.

The decision has been under appeal and is pending in the office of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

In September last year, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of Aklan’s provincial environment and natural resources officer and four other DENR employees for allegedly extorting P500,000 from a landowner in Malay.

A case filed against the operators of Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center for allegedly building on a wetland was dismissed due to technical grounds, sparking outrage from residents and other businessmen.

The Department of Tourism’s attached agency, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), is also being blamed for the delay in infrastructure projects intended to sustain the island’s environment.

For instance, the drainage system that Tieza started in 2007 is still unfinished.

Long overdue

Swiss-German Ralph Gasser, who has been living on the island since 1983, said that while he welcomed efforts of the DENR and other government agencies to rehabilitate Boracay, he lamented that the problems had become serious because of years of government neglect.

“This is overdue and should have happened a long time ago,” Gasser told the Inquirer. “Where has the DENR been for the past 25 years? Why didn’t they step in earlier?”

Ming wonders whether the problems will really be solved.

“Everybody is probably pointing fingers at the other person. But there has got to be a systematic way to preserve the island,” she said.

“I am resigned to the fact that people want to be on a beautiful island, but people just need to take responsibility for cleaning it up,” she added.

04-04-2018, 07:59 AM
‘Cesspool’ tag on Boracay won’t be easy to shake off

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:25 AM April 04, 2018

(Second of three parts)

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan - Near the middle of the main road a few hundred meters from the plaza of Balabag village here, malodorous, murky water seeps from a drainage hole cover, creating a puddle.

“It’s a regular occurrence,” said a security guard in one of the island’s high-end resorts.

The sight has become too familiar for residents and frequent visitors to Boracay, one of the country’s world-famous tourist destinations but is now called a “cesspool” by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Dirty pools also appear regularly in other sections of the island’s drainage system.

When heavy rain comes, the already strained system is overwhelmed, triggering flash floods that paralyze vehicular traffic.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has attributed the excess wastewater to illegal connections to the drainage network, which is meant only for rain and surface overflow.

Disappearing wetlands

The more essential wetlands — natural repositories of rainwater and biodiversity — have been taken over by buildings that sprang from a frenzy of unregulated development activities.

Four of the nine wetlands are occupied by a shopping mall, a resort hotel and around 100 illegal settlers, according to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

At least 300 hotels, resorts, inns and other commercial establishments, and hundreds of residential structures are also dumping sewage into the drainage canals that are supposed to channel treated wastewater into the open sea, according to the DENR.

These businesses are not connected to the sewage system and will be charged criminally and closed for violating the Clean Water Act, it said.

The DENR has not released the list of violators despite repeated requests by the Inquirer.

According to Cimatu, the DENR will compel the local government of Malay, which has jurisdiction over Boracay, to strictly implement Municipal Ordinance No. 307 that requires sewage connection for all establishments and houses within 61 meters from the nearest canal.

Those outside this area must build their own sewage treatment plants or septic tanks and employ sewage dislodging services.

Defying ordinance

The ordinance, which was passed in 2012, has been defied by commercial establishments and residential buildings.

Currently, two privately owned or controlled companies—Boracay Island Water Co. (BIWC) and Boracay Tubi System Inc. (BTSI)—provide water and sewage services on the 1,032-hectare island.

BIWC took over the operations and maintenance of the government-owned Boracay Water and Sewerage System. It operates a portion of the island’s drainage system.

BIWC is owned 80 percent by Manila Water, an Ayala subsidiary, and 20 percent by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (then the Philippine Tourism Authority), an attached agency of the Department of Tourism.

BIWC was set up on April 2, 2009, under a 25-year joint venture agreement.

On the other hand, BTSI provides water and septage management. It is owned 80 percent by MacroAsia Corp., a subsidiary of the Lucio Tan Group of Companies, and 20 percent by businessman James Molina under a December 2016 deal. Molina established the company in 1999.

It is currently impossible, however, for all establishments to connect to the BIWC sewage system, which covers only 61 percent of the island.

The company has only two sewage treatment plants — one at Barangay Balabag and another at Barangay Manoc-Manoc.

Water treatment facilities

Wastewater treated in the plants undergo an eight-stage process before it is released into the sea, said Blanca Eunicia Aldaba, BIWC head of business operations.

DENR Administrative Order No. 35 specifies that treated wastewater should meet “Class SB” standard that is fit for ecotourism and recreational activities, including swimming, bathing and diving.

The Balabag plant has a capacity of 6.5 million liters per day (MLD), and its network covers the village and parts of Manoc-Manoc.

The P258-million Manoc-Manoc plant has a capacity of 5 MLD and covers the barangay and parts of Balabag.

Barangay Yapak on the northern end of the island has yet to be reached by the sewage system.

Few businesses connected

BTSI has a 500-cubic-meter plant to treat wastewater for use in cleaning, irrigation and toilet flushing.

Those that cannot be reached and connected to the network have sewage treatment plants or septic tanks, or illegally discharge wastewater in open canals or through the drainage system.

Despite the availability of the service, only a few businesses are connected to the sewage system.

While 70 percent of BIWC’s total service connections of 6,267 are for residential buildings, only 229 have availed themselves of the sewer service.

Most households either have septic tanks or are discharging wastewater from toilets, kitchens and bathrooms into the drainage system, according to Aldaba.

Some business owners and residents have lamented the high water rates of BIWC and BTSI, and the lack of government regulation.

Exorbitant rates

“The water and sewage rates are exorbitant and this is one reason why many are not connected,” said one hotel owner, who asked not to be named for being a customer of BIWC.

Boracay has one of the country’s highest water rates even if BIWC, one of the two water providers on the island, is partly operated by the national government.

BIWC charges households that consume up to 10 cubic meters a month at least P300.75 and P375.94 if sewage connection is included. Those who use sewage service only are charged five times higher.

Sewage fees depend on the number of toilets.

Commercial users pay at least P1,948.93 for water service of up to 20 cu m and P2,181.19 for water and sewage service.

The rates are higher than those in Metro Manila (P59.75 to P88.73 for residential consumers and P452.59 to P687.26 for commercial users for the first 10 cu m).

BTSI charges residential users at least P33 per cu m for water consumption not exceeding 10 cu m a month. The minimum commercial rate for consumption of up to 25 cu m is P66.10 per cu m.

Aldaba said the rates were much higher than those in Metro Manila due to bigger capital expenditure and operational expenses to make treated wastewater fit for ecotourism and recreational activities.

04-05-2018, 07:10 AM
Duterte approves 6-month closure of Boracay, starting April 26

By: Nestor Corrales - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ INQUIRER.net / 09:46 PM April 04, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte approved on Wednesday the closure of Boracay for six months, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“Bora closed for six month effective 26 April,” Roque said.

Duterte made the approval during the 24th Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday.

In a text message, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the proposal of the interagency committee tasked with reviewing the rehabilitation of Boracay was approved.

“DENR/DOT/DILG proposal approved after an exhaustive discussion,“ Guevarra said.

He said calamity funds would be activated to help workers affected by the closure.

Roque said the President would declare a state of calamity in Boracay. /atm

04-05-2018, 10:24 AM
Boracay shutdown spooks businesses

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:04 AM April 05, 2018

(Last of three parts)

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan - Chiquita Magbanua sits on the white sand under the shade of coconut trees near Boat Station 3 at the southern end of this island, waiting for customers. It’s her favorite spot when selling bracelets, necklaces, anklets and other accessories made of shells.

When tourists come in droves during the peak months— from January to May — Magbanua sells her wares, earning P500 to P1,000 daily. During the rainy season and bad weather, she is penniless.

“If I do not sell anything for two days straight, I would need to borrow money from relatives or friends,” she told the Inquirer.

Magbanua, 56, a native of Manoc-Manoc village, said her earnings were barely enough to help meet her family’s needs. Her four grandchildren live with her.

Reports that the national government will shut down the 1,032-hectare island scare Magbanua and other residents who depend on the island’s booming tourism industry.

“Closure … means hunger,” she said. “We are not sure of what will happen to us.”

After calling Boracay a “cesspool” and “full of shit,” President Rodrigo Duterte in February imposed a six-month deadline for government agencies and the local government to solve the resort island’s environmental problems.

Last month, the President said he was supporting the recommendation of an interagency task force for a shutdown of up to one year to facilitate the removal of illegal structures and to put up infrastructure to sustain Boracay’s tourism industry, which generated P56 billion in revenue last year.

The move, however, could adversely affect resorts and other businesses, and displace thousands of workers and others whose livelihoods depend on tourism.

Island workforce

Alma Belejerdo, Malay municipal planning and development officer, said registered local and foreign workers numbered 17,328 as of Dec. 31, 2017.

They included employees of hotels, resorts, restaurants and other commercial establishments, drivers of passenger vehicles, crew of passenger boats and those of other service sectors.

Unregistered workers were estimated at 9,365, according to the municipal government. Many employers did not declare the exact number of their staff to evade payment of the P200 occupancy permit per employee.

The workers come from Aklan and other provinces.

Shutting down Boracay could also cripple the economy of Malay town, which has jurisdiction over the island and derives most of its revenue from it.

A shutdown could also significantly affect the economy of Aklan province.

Annual revenue

In 2017, Malay’s revenue hit P508.470 million, of which P110.435 million (21.72 percent) was from its Internal Revenue Allotment.

Revenue from local sources reached P396.734 million (78.03 percent), according to the municipal government.

Rowen Aguirre, former municipal councilor and now special executive assistant for Boracay affairs, said 90 percent of the local revenue (P357 million) came from Boracay, such as fees from business and building permits, and environmental and terminal fees.

Terminal fee of P200

Each tourist going to the island pays P200 in terminal fees—P100 at the Caticlan port (the jump-off point from the mainland) and P100 when leaving the island at the Cagban port—and P75 in environmental fee, of which the province gets 15 percent.

The terminal fees are collected by the provincial government, which gets 80 percent. The municipal government gets 10 percent and Barangays Caticlan and Manoc-Manoc, 5 percent each.

The environment fee is intended “exclusively for environmental and tourism programs and projects in the municipality.”

Exempted from paying the fees are residents of Aklan, those holding a terminal pass, children age 5 years and below, and workers with valid company identification cards.

Assuming that at least half of the 2 million tourists who went to Boracay in 2017 paid the terminal fees, the provincial government would have collected at least P200 million.

Data obtained by the Inquirer from the municipal treasurer’s office showed that total collection for environmental fees hit P116 million last year — P99 million (85 percent) going to the municipal government and P17 million (15 percent) remitted to the provincial government.

According to the municipal government, the bulk of its share of the terminal fees goes to the collection of garbage in Boracay, which is transported in barges to the mainland.

Aklan’s cash cow

In his State of the Province Address in 2017, Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores called the Caticlan and Cagban ports and terminal a “cash cow” of the province.

Port operations raised P329 million in 2015 and P382 million in 2016.

From 2014 to 2016, gross revenue from toll and terminal fees, cargo fees and other port charges reached P861 million, while operation costs were P171 million for a net revenue of P690 million, according to Miraflores.

The Caticlan port also caters to passenger and cargo ships not coming from or bound for Boracay.

Hospitals, airport

Miraflores said the bulk of the net revenue (P486 million) from the two ports went to the three hospitals run by the provincial government — Dr. Rafael S. Tumbokon Memorial Hospital, Ibajay District Hospital and Altavas District Hospital.

Shutting down Boracay will hit the province hard, including the capital town of Kalibo, whose airport is the main gateway for tourists, according to the governor.

Last year, Kalibo International Airport had 75 to 80 international flights and 155 to 160 domestic flights weekly.

Hotels and restaurants in Kalibo also benefit from Boracay’s tourism industry.

Transportation services, including tourist buses and coasters and taxis, are booming as tourists shuttle from the airport to the Caticlan port, 68 kilometers away.

Seafood products

Aside from providing jobs, Boracay is also a growing market for seafood and agricultural products, especially from the northern areas of Panay Island.

An interagency task force composed of the departments of environment and natural resources, tourism, and interior and local government has formally recommended to President Duterte the suspension of all tourism-related activities in Boracay for six months starting April 26.

“The closure is necessary “to ensure undisrupted and unimpeded implementation” of measures aimed at correcting environmental and other violations on the island, according to the task force.

Highest monthly arrivals

Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo earlier said the closure of the island to tourists could include the months of June and July when tourist traffic is slow.

While the number of tourists is lower during the rainy season, there is no more “low season” on the island compared to 20 years ago.

The Department of Tourism reported that 159,708 tourists arrived in June and 153,791 in July last year, fewer than the 233,233 in April, which registered the highest monthly arrivals.

Henry Chusuey, chair of Henann Group of Resorts that operates five hotels on the island, said only those not complying with the law should be dealt with by the government.

If the shutdown pushes through, Chusuey said, “Who will feed our employees?” The group employs nearly 2,000 workers.

While most residents and property owners agree that the island’s resources need to recover from decades of overdevelopment, many doubt that the problems can be solved through a shutdown or even within the six-month deadline imposed by the President.

“What can the (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and local government unit do in two months against what they have failed to do in four decades?” said former Western Visayas tourism officer Edwin Trompeta.

“To close the island is extremely ill-advised in the context of the economic activities in Boracay and its contribution to the economy,” Trompeta added.

Tricycle driver Wilson Talurong, who earns from P700 to P800 daily, fears the loss of his only source of livelihood.

“Why punish all of us? Just sanction the violators,” he said.


The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines said sustainable tourism could be achieved if there was balance among environmental protection, community benefits and visitor satisfaction.

“In the case of Boracay, the issue of environmental protection has been compromised,” WWF-Philippines said in a statement.

It added that the closure should deal with “the issue of restoring the natural systems and mitigating tourism and/or domestic activities that cause damage to the environment.”

The loss of income can be recovered, said Jojo Rodriguez, vice chair of Sangkalikasan Producer Cooperative, which has conducted an artificial reef project aimed at rehabilitating Boracay’s almost severely damaged coral reef system.

“If we lose the island through negligence and greed, that will be forever,” Rodriguez said.

04-05-2018, 10:35 AM
Some sectors there were already asking various agencies like the DENR and DOT for help as early as 11 years ago. No one did a damn thing.

But let us not kid ourselves, EVERYONE making a living off Boracay in the last decade and a half are guilty in one way or another of abusing Boracay.

Come on, sa tinagal-tagal nang panahon wala man lang nagdemanda diyan sa kahit sinong public official for all the permits they issued eyes wide shut?

Ayaw niyong madamay sa shutdown pero wala naman sa inyong pumalag nung sinasalaula na ang Boracay.

Ang pinakadapat unahin diyan lahat nung mga Mayors, Vice Mayors, Sanggunian Members, and all barangay officials of the last 15 years, kasi sa panahon na 'yon tumindi ang development diyan sa Boracay, sila ang may pinakamalaking kasalanan sa sinasapit ng Boracay ngayon.

04-05-2018, 10:58 AM
It’s a cesspool

By: Peter Wallace - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:22 AM April 05, 2018

The description of Boracay as a “cesspool” was a wonderful strategy that worked. For years people have been complaining of the deterioration of the island, with nothing done beyond platitudinal promises. For years we’ve complained of the growing deterioration of Boracay, and nothing was done. It’s a story replicated throughout the Philippines, with corrupted local officials and thoughtless, nay greedy, resort owners, leading to a cesspool. The local officials should resign in shame.

It had to be declared a cesspool for anything to happen. Now what happens to clean it up has to be maintained. And that, in the Philippines, is a rarity. It means the President will have to continue to monitor the situation. And Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu will have to be there almost weekly, and take it forward to all other resorts. It can’t be left to local officials; they’ll slip back to their old ways. And the courts have to reject efforts to stop the removal of unacceptable structures.

Regarding Boracay, I believe the proposal to fully close it for 60 days is a good idea. For six months? That may be too long. For the same reason “cesspool” worked, it shocks real action. To correct the overbuilding, those resorts without proper permits—and worse, unconnected to wastewater disposal—need a wholesale approach. Have teams mobilized and equipped to do a massive 60-day cleanup and correction.

But at the same time, honest establishments in Boracay shouldn’t be penalized with loss of business if the island is closed to tourism. But how to go about it? How should national and local governments help them? The compliant resorts could perhaps be given subsidies to compensate them for their losses. Or free promotion from the Boracay and Aklan tourism offices and the Department of Tourism in giving priority to sending tourists to them. Noncompliant businesses must be heavily penalized. The government should implement a carrot-and-stick policy.

There are two water treatment plants on the island, but I am told only one has the capability to handle sewerage fully. The other still needs to be developed. While some resorts are properly connected to the system, many are not. Even worse, they are able to get permits from the local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to discharge their wastes into the drainage system. How? Secretary Cimatu might want to ask. Which raises the point that the government needs to do its job honestly, and meet its contractual obligations, too (something the last administration violated).

For tourists who have a confirmed stay for that period, maybe there should be an arrangement to go to an equivalent resort elsewhere at no additional cost, and special assistance for the transfer. The Department of Tourism’s decision to promote “alternatives” to Boracay is a step in the right direction.

I disagree that the proposed closure of Boracay would send a negative signal internationally. It’s the very reverse: Properly presented, it can send a very positive message. With the government’s decision to clean up Boracay, I’m sure we’ll see foreign and local tourists returning to the island once the cleanup is completed. But now their number must be restricted to what the island can manage without further damage. The Aklan Provincial Tourism Office expects 2.2 million visitors. It must rethink this and set a lower level that will be allowed. In 2017, for instance, the number of foreign and domestic tourists that visited Boracay reached 2,001,974, surpassing the 2-million mark and higher than what the island can support.

Previous administrations allowed the Philippines’ pristine beaches and beauty to be degraded. This administration’s message can be: “We are bringing Boracay back to its original beauty and cleanliness so you can truly enjoy the world’s top beach resort.”

What has happened to Boracay is a nationwide disease called “greed.” Baguio City cannot be visited today. Try driving down Session Road. Tagaytay has a 30-story monstrosity on its skyline and overbuilding elsewhere. Bohol and Palawan are both at risk. All need the same radical action. But will they get it, and will it be sustained? The abuse of controls is ubiquitous. It’s time it was stopped.

04-05-2018, 11:19 AM
Kill Boracay

By: Joel Ruiz Butuyan - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:09 AM April 02, 2018

President Duterte recently declared that he would support recommendations to close the entire island of Boracay in order to address its environmental problems. If the President makes good on his threat, he will be applying to Boracay the same solution he has used on the nation’s drug problem.

There’s a drug problem? Kill! There’s a Boracay problem? Close!

The President’s inclination to use the most severe solution — even with a range of other options available — betrays a lack of patience to make distinctions on the different shades of a crisis. It shows that the President views the world in black and white. It reveals that the Philippines’ leader is blind to the nuances of his people’s problems, and the degrees of liability of the multitude of actors.

Most lamentably, the President is insensitive to the great collateral damage that his action brings.

Never mind the thousands of orphans and widows whose lives are irreparably scarred and whose futures are permanently altered by the loss of a loved one. Never mind if the loved one killed was not a peddler of illegal drugs but a mere user suffering addiction because of a family problem, economic reasons, or social circumstances. Never mind if the loved one slain had potentials for rehabilitation. In the mind of our President, all drug personalities are lurking murderers, rapists, and robbers.

Never mind the many resorts and other business establishments that are compliant with environmental regulations on Boracay. Never mind if these businesses contracted huge loans the repayment of which is dependent on continuing commercial operations. Never mind if they face the risk of loan foreclosure.

Never mind if 36,000 people will lose their jobs, and they simply have to hibernate and ignore all needs for food, clothing and shelter for a period of six months. Never mind if the planned closure will result in the loss of P56 billion in tourism receipts, and the big chunk of tax revenues that result from it.

Boracay has a special place in my heart because I was the lead counsel who filed an environmental case in 2011 to stop the province of Aklan from proceeding with a 40-hectare land reclamation project in Boracay and neighboring Barangay Caticlan.

During oral arguments in the Supreme Court, I pointed out that the reclamation would disrupt the natural flow of water in the sea channel that separates Boracay and Caticlan. Scientists have observed that the flow of water in the sea channel is responsible for the movement of the white sand of Boracay, which rotate locations around the island at different months of the year. This annual movement enables the sand to be naturally washed and cleaned, and it is for this reason that it retains its world-famous pristine color. The Supreme Court sustained our arguments by issuing a permanent protection order banning the reclamation from further proceeding.

Before the reclamation case, I spent years representing one of the original families of Boracay in cases that involved land disputes. I would attend court hearings in Kalibo, and then spend the weekend in my client’s Boracay resort almost every month for an entire decade. I saw Boracay evolve from an island lighted with bamboo torches to what it is now today.

That Boracay has environmental problems because several business establishments violate environmental regulations is just one side of the story. The other side of the story is that these problems exist because the government has conspired with, or has been recklessly negligent in allowing, erring establishments to operate. The government shares equal if not larger blame for the problems of Boracay. Where do the tens of millions of pesos in environmental fees paid by Boracay tourists go?

The government should identify and close the specific business establishments guilty of violations, as well as prosecute the government officials who enabled them to operate. But in the process, it must protect the innocent establishments that have been faithful in their efforts to keep Boracay alive.

04-06-2018, 02:16 PM
P2-B calamity fund to tide Boracay over

By: Leila B. Salaverria, Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:02 AM April 06, 2018

Once dubbed the world’s best island, Boracay is to be closed to tourists for a maximum of six months starting April 26 as the government seeks to clean it up and rid it of the “cesspool” tag given by President Duterte.

Mr. Duterte is expected to put the island resort under a state of calamity to allow the use of P2 billion in public funds to help workers who will be out of jobs once the steady stream of visitors is cut off, according to his spokesperson, Harry Roque.

The government will also use the closure to determine the carrying capacity of the 1,032-hectare island to regulate its development.

In the meantime, it expects to forgo up to P20 billion in revenue during the shutdown.

More than 2 million tourists visited Boracay last year, generating about P56 billion in revenue.

An interagency task force composed of the Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) proposed the closure.

Assistant Tourism Secretary Frederick Alegre described the closure as “one step backward, two steps forward.”

“We have to swallow the bitter pill if we wish to sustain and protect the island of Boracay,” Alegre said in a press briefing.

The closure comes at the height of the summer break, the peak season in Boracay.

But Alegre said the task force decided not to put off the rehabilitation to the lean season because of the need to clean up the island beset by a lack of sewerage facilities.

‘Dead island’

The influx of tourists, neglected infrastructure, and growth of resort establishments and poor settlements have threatened to turn Boracay into a “dead island” in less than a decade, according to a government study.

Only about 47 percent of the hundreds of establishments are connected to the island’s main sewage treatment plant, with many of the rest possibly maintaining crude septic tanks and others discharging their waste directly into the sea, Alegre said.

“When we were presented the data by the DENR and the DILG, and the pollution levels that we are now seeing daily, the recommendation is to move the date earlier,” he said.

April 26 was set as the start of the closure to avoid the influx of some 30,000 people who would have descended on the island for the “laboracay,” or Labor Day parties, and added to the sewage and waste problems.

Scope of rehab

Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the rehabilitation works would consist of:

Drainage audit to spot illegal connections.

Construction of new drainage and sewer lines.

Demolition of structures illegally built on forest lands and wetlands and those that violate easement restrictions.

Fixing of the transportation system.

Officials will likewise go around the establishments in Boracay to determine which of them had violated environmental standards. Violators will be ordered shut down.

Carrying capacity

The closure will also be used to determine the island’s carrying capacity, which will serve as the basis for regulating the entry of visitors and the construction of new establishments, according to Assistant Local Government Secretary Epimaco Densing.

Even before the study could be conducted, Alegre said the island could sustain only 30,000 people.

Boracay teems with 70,000 at any time, including 50,000 residents and daily arrivals of about 20,000 tourists.

To ensure that only residents and workers may enter Boracay during the closure, the DILG will implement an identification (ID) system for them.

At least 26,000 workers will be affected by the closure, according to the Malay municipal government, which governs Boracay. These exclude workers in service industries like transportation and food.

Johnson Cañete, Western Visayas director of the labor department, said the agency was preparing to assist 17,735 registered workers.

He said the regional labor office had proposed emergency employment assistance for the workers, including P50 in insurance and compensation (regional minimum wage of P323.50 per day) for 30 to 90 days.

Malay Mayor Ciceron Cawaling said the town’s budget for 2019 would be slashed by P200 million because of the expected drop in revenue due to the shutdown. - WITH A REPORT FROM AP

04-06-2018, 02:19 PM
Airlines cancel flights to Caticlan, Kalibo

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:06 AM April 06, 2018

The government’s decision to close the holiday hot spot of Boracay for six months to make it environment friendly has prompted airlines to reduce flights to the island.

Cebu Pacific, the dominant domestic carrier, said it would cancel 14 daily round-trip flights to Caticlan and Kalibo, Boracay’s two main gateways, from April 26 to Oct. 25.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) said it would scale down services to the airports and add flights to other destinations.

Both PAL and Cebu Pacific offered customers full refunds or flights elsewhere, and said they would still operate a limited number of flights to Caticlan and Kalibo airports to serve residents, which number about 50,000.

Airlines offer around 1.2 million seats from Boracay’s Caticlan airport annually, nearly three-quarters from Manila, data from Aviation Consultants show.

“Cebu Pacific with some 323,000 odd seats a year from the island would be the largest carrier disrupted,” said John Grant, director of JG Aviation Consultants.

04-06-2018, 02:22 PM
Closure order dismays islanders, businesses

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:30 AM April 06, 2018

Boracay residents and business operators have expressed sadness and frustration over President Duterte’s order to close down the resort island for six months, starting April 26, after weeks of appeal against it.

“(The closure) is too long and they should have opted for alternatives instead that will not burden those who are compliant with the laws and regulations,” one business operator said.

One resident claimed that the islanders were demoralized. “They do not know what to do because they have mouths to feed, children who are still in school and family members who require medical attention.”

Netizens’ rant

Many ranted on social media.

“Dear President Duterte, is the Philippine government going to pay the rent for the locals, put food on their tables, give their kids lunch money, pay their electricity, settle their medical bills, pay the tuition for family members they are putting through college (and) protect their properties from looting,” one said.

Supporters of the President also lamented the closure order.

“It is quite ironic with your recent decision that can possibly damage or negatively change the lives of thousands of people in Boracay Island once it’s shut down,” according to a Facebook post by Ley De.

Fr. Edgardo Encarguez, convenor of a coalition against the closure, said Mr. Duterte’s decision “will lead to the loss of jobs of more or less 30,000 workers and the destruction of livelihood of thousands of families.”

Malay Mayor Ciceron Cawaling said the closure was declared even without any detailed plan on the shutdown and rehabilitation.

Aid for workers

Jose Clemente III, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, expressed hope that the financial aid meant for workers in Boracay would be “enough to ensure that their lives won’t be that difficult.”

While the local government, residents and business people in Boracay decried the shutdown, San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang said he supported the government initiative to transform the island into a sustainable tourist destination.

San Miguel operates Boracay Airport in Caticlan.

The Boracay Tourism Stakeholders asked Mr. Duterte to limit the closure only to properties and establishments that violated environmental and zoning regulations. —WITH REPORTS FROM ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL, DAXIM L. LUCAS AND JEROME ANING

Sam Miguel
04-10-2018, 07:38 AM
‘There are no farms in Boracay’


By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Visayas / 05:27 PM April 09, 2018

ILOILO CITY – Several Boracay Island residents expressed disbelief over the pronouncement of President Duterte that he will subject land on the island for land reform since the island is “agricultural.”

“There are no farms here. I plant vegetables on our rooftop,” a resident told the INQUIRER in reaction to the President’s statement.

The President who has ordered a six-month closure of the 1,032-hectare island starting April 26 said the island will be a “land reform area” because it is forest land and agricultural.

But Presidential Proclamation No. 1064 issued by then President Macapagal-Arroyo on May 22, 2006 already categorized 628.96 hectares or 60.94 percent of the island as alienable and disposable, and the rest as forest land and protected areas.

Most of areas categorized as public lands are occupied and covered with residential and commercial structures.

While only a third of the island is titled, many land occupants have been paying tax declarations for decades.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier said that under present land ownership laws, land claimants over public lands will have to wait for 30 years after the land is declared alienable and disposable before they can apply for titling.

In the case of Boracay, that would mean 30 years after the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 1064 in 2006 or in 2036.

Residents and property owners on the island have appealed to the national government for years to address the land titling issue on the island that has led to disputes and even violent confrontation among claimants.

Sam Miguel
04-10-2018, 07:39 AM
BACKGROUNDER: How Boracay shifted from agriculture to tourism

Inquirer Research / 07:20 AM April 10, 2018

The island of Boracay was mainly an agricultural community before it became a tourist destination, according to a 1998 study titled “Governance in Context: Boracay Island, Philippines” by William Trousdale of EcoPlan International.

Locals then depended on copra and fish for their source of income. But local fishing eventually suffered due to overharvesting and degradation of coral reef, while the price of copra significantly dropped.

The loss of income and livelihood opportunities for the residents paved the way for the transformation of Boracay into a tourist destination in the late 1970s.

“From its inception, the primary factor motivating tourism development in Boracay has been economic: profits, jobs, income and government revenue,” Trousdale said in the study.

In a 1996 study, “Sun, Sea, Sand and Sewage: A Wastewater Management Plan for Boracay Island, The Philippines,” marine biologist Pierre Pillout noted that Boracay had no industry or agriculture that could have caused algal blooms along the island’s shoreline.

Pillout said that ammonia, nitrate and phosphate, which caused the spread of algae in Boracay, came from industrial, agricultural and domestic wastes.

But since Boracay had no industry or agriculture to speak of then, Pillout concluded algal blooms in Boracay could be caused only by sewage from septic tanks.

Sam Miguel
04-10-2018, 07:42 AM
‘No to casino, yes to land reform on Boracay Island’

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:23 AM April 10, 2018

DAVAO CITY - No casino will operate on Boracay Island, which will be closed to tourism for six months so it can be rehabilitated, President Duterte declared on Monday.

To the surprise of many, the President also declared the 1,032-hectare resort island an agrarian reform area, saying under the law, the country’s premier tourist destination is an agricultural and forest area.

“I did not say I will allow casino there somewhere. Far from it actually. I never said anything about building anything or even a nipa hut there,” Mr. Duterte said.

He made the statement before leaving for Hainan, China, in reaction to reports the government would allow a casino to be built on the island, which he called a “cesspool” in February.

After Malacañang announced on April 5 that Boracay would be shut down for six months starting April 26, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the closure was meant to pave the way for the construction of a casino.

Two casinos

Two major casinos on Boracay Island have been approved by state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

Pagcor has approved a $500-million integrated casino resort of Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group and its local partner, AB Leisure Exponent Inc., a unit of the publicly listed Leisure and Resorts World Corp.

Resorts World Manila also plans to start gaming operations at the Savoy Hotel, a component of Megaworld Corp.’s Boracay Coast development.

In his departure press conference in Davao City, the President noted that the island was owned by the government.

“It’s agricultural and forestal. Unless there is a law or proclamation by the President setting aside anything there, an inch of land maybe, then that would be all right for other people to go in,” he said.

But because there was no such proclamation, Mr. Duterte said the law remained and that Boracay was a government property.

“I’ll place it under [the] land reform [program]. It would be better. I will tell you now, ‘I will give it to farmers. I will give them tractors,’” the President said.

SC ruling, GMA declaration

A Supreme Court ruling in 2008 declared the island state-owned. Rejecting ownership claims of several resort owners, the high court said the island, which it classified as forested and agricultural, belonged to the government.

On May 22, 2006, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation No. 1064 that categorized 628.96 ha, or 60.94 percent of the island, as alienable and disposable, and the rest as forest land and protected areas.

Most of the areas classified as public lands are occupied by residential and commercial structures.

Claimants of public lands will have to wait for 30 years after the land is declared alienable and disposable before they can apply for titling, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Mr. Duterte said he did not care about moneyed people or businesses that would be displaced by his decision to declare Boracay an agrarian reform area.

Help for poor

“You’ll ask me what about the businesses? I’m sorry, the law says it’s agricultural. Why would I deviate from that?” he said.

The President said the poor, who would be affected by his closure order, would get help from the government.

“If you’re asking financial help, I’m going to sign a proclamation of calamity and I can make available P2 billion of assistance but this is only for the poor Filipino,” he said.

The President said various government agencies were helping in the cleanup.

After the cleanup, Mr, Duterte said he “would return” Boracay to the Filipino people.

“It’s going to be a land reform area. I do not have any plan to [put up] casinos there. I will give it to the people who need it most,” he said.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu is also against casinos in Boracay.

“No [to the casinos]. There are so many other places to put those up. Why when we’re already working so hard to clean it up?” Cimatu said on Friday at the DENR central office in Quezon City. - [I]Reports from Allan Nawal and Jaymee T. Gamil

Sam Miguel
04-10-2018, 07:43 AM
Bello warns against Boracay layoffs

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:25 AM April 10, 2018

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday warned employers in Boracay against terminating their employees during the six-month closure of the resort island starting April 26.

In an advisory, Bello said the “temporary suspension of business operations should not and must not result in the termination or separation of any employee.”

Weeks before the start of the closure, business establishments, including inns, have started laying off workers.

While saying the closure of Boracay as ordered by the President would compel the temporary suspension of business operations, Bello notified employers that they could only “observe the principle of ‘no work, no pay,’ or require the employees to go on forced leave by utilizing their leave credits, if any.”

He said employees were expected to be called back to work upon the lifting of the temporary closure of Boracay.

The labor advisory is for “strict observance and compliance.”

Bello earlier said the labor department would extend assistance, including the provision of emergency employment, to affected workers.

He said some 5,000 informal sector workers and members of the indigenous community on the island would be employed in the cleanup of the 1,032-hectare island.

The labor secretary has set aside an initial P60 million for the emergency employment assistance program.

Labor group Partido Manggagawa called on the labor department to initiate a dialogue with affected workers on the terms of emergency assistance. - Tina G. Santos

Sam Miguel
04-10-2018, 07:48 AM
Boracay wholly state-owned — 2008 Supreme Court ruling

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The government has every right to close down Boracay Island, based on existing jurisprudence by the Supreme Court (SC) that declared the famous tourist destination as state-owned.

An October 2008 decision of the SC had classified the island as both forest and agricultural land that belongs to the government as it junked ownership claims by several resort owners.

The ruling, which stands as it has not been appealed or reconsidered, could provide legal justification to the six-month closure ordered by Malacañang for the rehabilitation of the island.

It may also have legal implications upon the reported plan of the Duterte administration to allow casino resorts in the island, a court insider told The STAR. “Giving property ownership to casino resorts in areas covered by forest land under the law may be questioned based on this decision,” explained the source, who requested anonymity.

The SC classified the owners of resorts fronting the shoreline as merely “builders in good faith” because the area is a forestland that cannot be privatized.

“The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants do not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor do these give them a right to apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying,” said the 35-page decision penned by now retired Associate Justice Ruben Reyes.

“At any rate, the Court is tasked to determine the legal status of Boracay Island, and not look into its physical layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has been replaced by beach resorts, restaurants and other commercial establishments, it has not been automatically converted from public forest to alienable agricultural land,” it stressed.

The SC affirmed Proclamation 1064 issued by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo which classified Boracay Island into 400 hectares of reserved forestland for “protection purposes” and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land that are “alienable and disposable.” It explained that only owners with valid land titles since June 12, 1945, the date prescribed under the Public Land Act or Commonwealth Act 141, could claim ownership to their properties in the island. Most owners of beachfront properties are without titles.

Under the law, unclassified lands are considered public forests and only agricultural lands can be disposed of for private ownership.

The Court ruled that even those who occupy their properties “since time immemorial” cannot make ownership claims, without valid original titles obtained from the period.

“For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of improvements. They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession. For another, they may look into other modes of applying for original registration of title, such as by homestead or sales patent,” it suggested.

“The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration, who must prove that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable,” the ruling said.

But the high court pointed out that the more practical option is for Congress to pass a law that would reclassify the lands and entitle the claimants to ownership over certain areas.

The court issued this ruling based on petitions challenging Proclamation 1064 filed by two groups of resort owners – Jose Yap Jr., Libertad Talapian, Mila Sumnad and Aniceto Yap; and Orlando Sacay, the owner of Waling-Waling Beach Resort and chairman of the Board of Boracay Foundation Inc., and Wilfredo Gelito, owner of Willy’s Beach Resort.

The groups lamented that even if they already spent millions to develop their respective properties, they could not be granted ownership.

“While the Court commiserates with private claimants’ plight, we are bound to apply the law strictly and judiciously. This is the law and it should prevail,” the Court added.

No infringement

President Duterte’s order to close Boracay does not infringe the people’s right to travel, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.

“The closure of Boracay is meant to protect (the island) since it is our crown jewel – tourist destination – to ensure that it’s not our generation alone that can discover the paradise that is Boracay,” Roque said, in response to a query whether or not the government’s move is a violation of the people’s right to travel.

The government has invoked its police power to protect the environment when Duterte followed the recommendation of the Departments of Tourism (DOT) and the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to rehabilitate Boracay.

Staggered shutdown

Meanwhile, senators yesterday sought a staggered implementation of the shutdown of Boracay Island to lessen the economic losses to be sustained by the six-month closure.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian noted the announcement of the DILG and DOT that the rehabilitation of the island “can be conducted by partial closure or a closure of different segments of Boracay.”

“Six months really has a lot of economic impact that’s why the sooner we can open Boracay, the better for the entire industry. We can open a small segment after 30 days, then another (segment) so Boracay operates slowly,” Gatchalian said.

The proposed “phased” closure and opening of portions of Boracay should be accompanied by a cash-for-work program for the estimated 30,000 workers, who will be displaced by the shutdown, according to the senator. – With Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero

Sam Miguel
04-10-2018, 07:56 AM
Duterte denies knowing about planned Boracay casino

President Rodrigo Duterte also says he will 'give' Boracay land to farmers instead

Pia Ranada

Published 4:00 PM, April 09, 2018
Updated 9:35 PM, April 09, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte denied he knew about plans to construct a casino in Boracay.

The planned casino angered netizens and critics who claimed it was proof that the government is not sincere in efforts to protect the popular tourist destination.

The supposed casino would be built by a Chinese company.

"Walang plano diyang casino-casino. Tama na iyan kasi sobra na. May casino dito, casino doon," Duterte said in a press conference on Monday, April 9, before leaving for China.

(There are no plans for a casino. Let's stop it because it's too much. There's a casino here, casino there.)

For the President, Boracay should be a farmers' island instead.

"Consider Boracay a land reform area. I will give it to the farmers, to the Filipinos first," he said.

"I will issue a proclamation. Lahat 'yan, lahat (all of the lands), agricultural," he added.

Duterte said that, according to the law, Boracay is mostly comprised of agricultural or forest land.

"The law says it is forest, agricultural. Why would I deviate from that?" he said.

The 6-month closure order, said the President, would be in preparation for the return of the land "to the people who need it the most." (READ: CHEAT SHEET: What to expect from Boracay closure)

"It's going to be a land reform area for the Filipinos. If you want to build something there, they can build a floating –" he said.

Boracay's 6-month closure to tourists begins on April 26. (READ: Is the government prepared for Boracay's closure?) – Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
04-10-2018, 08:19 AM
Duterte: No master plan for Boracay, just clean-up of agri area

Published April 9, 2018 3:30pm


The government does not have a master plan for the Boracay island aside from allocating P2 billion in calamity funds for locals of the area, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday.

"Master plan, wala akong master plan. Linisin ko muna 'yan kasi agricultural area 'yan," he said in a press conference in Davao City.

Just last week, Senators Nancy Binay and Richard Gordon emphasized the need to have a master plan for the entry of tourists to Boracay to address its environmental issues.

Duterte earlier this month approved the recommendation to temporarily close the island to make way for its six-month rehabilitation starting April 26.

The six-month rehabilitation of the island was recommended by the DENR, the DOT, and the DILG last month after Duterte threatened to close down the island after he described the tourist destination as a "cesspool."

In the same press conference, however, Duterte said the entire island of Boracay will be a land reform area and will be given to farmers once the rehabilitation of the area is done.

"You want to know now? I'm going to give the announcement. It's going to be a land reform area for the Filipino," he said.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier said the six-month closure of the island would at most have a 0.1-percent effect on the gross domestic product (GDP), but this could have "significant" effects on the local economy.

According to stakeholders of the island, the year-long closure of the island could result in at least P56 billion in foregone revenues, and render as much as 36,000 people jobless.

With this, Duterte said the government will make available about P2 billion in calamity funds for locals of Boracay who would be affected by the rehabilitation.

"If you are asking for a financial help, we are going to assign the proclamation of calamity and we can make available about P2 billion of assistance but these are only for the poor Filipinos," he said. - NB, GMA News

Sam Miguel
04-10-2018, 08:26 AM
Mass layoffs start on Philippines' Boracay Island ahead of 6-month closure

PUBLISHEDAPR 9, 2018, 11:29 AM SGT

ILOILO CITY (THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Workers are feeling the pain even before Boracay Island is closed down for six months starting on April 26.

Business establishments have started laying off workers less than three weeks before the shutdown of the resort island to all tourism activities.

The layoffs come as some residents and business operators wonder whether martial law will be declared on Boracay Island.

Proposed guidelines governing the closure include banning all tourists while allowing only residents and workers with official identification cards to stay on the island.

Swimming in the sea will not be allowed during the closure, according to the draft guidelines to be implemented by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and law enforcement agencies.

Visitors, including journalists, will be allowed entry only if they have approval from the authorities for a definite duration, according to Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III of the DILG.

Foreign residents are to be "re-validated" by the Bureau of Immigration and a one-entry, one-exit point in going to and leaving the island will be enforced.

The guidelines would be finalised this week, Densing said.

The shutdown is aimed at rehabilitating the 1,032-hectare island, which suffers from a host of problems, including woefully inadequate sewage facilities that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte in February to call Boracay a "cesspool".


A hotel chain has laid off 280 workers, mostly newly hired, in anticipation of zero bookings, especially by foreign tourists, during the closure.

"We will decide later on our remaining employees," said an official of the hotel, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to issue a statement.

The island's closure will affect at least 73,522 residents, including 17,328 registered workers and 9,365 unregistered ones.

Business groups expect more establishments to trim down the number of workers to cut down on overhead costs.


A small family-operated inn at Sitio Angol, Barangay Manoc-Manoc, will be sending home all its five employees to their hometowns in Aklan.

"We cannot pay their salaries, but we will continue remitting contributions for the Social Security System, (Philippine Health Insurance Corp.) and Pag-Ibig Fund," said the hotel manager.

He said the inn still had to continue paying for electricity and water services even without guests.

A delicatessen will have to let go of three casual workers because of the closure, according to its owner. The owner still needs to discuss plans for the remaining staff.

Some business operators will absorb their hotel or resort staff in their other businesses so they can continue working.

Others said they would continue to support their workers despite the closure.

"We have decided to keep them even if we are closed because they have been with us for many years and they have helped us build and develop our resort," said Ruth Tirol-Jarantilla, owner of Sea Wind Boracay resort.

Agencies under the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Western Visayas will finalise their contingency plans and measures this week.

Johnson Cañete, Western Visayas director of the Department of Labour and Employment, earlier said the agency was preparing to assist 17,735 registered workers to be dislocated during the shutdown.

The proposed compensation package includes a 50 pesos (S$1.30) insurance and a compensation equivalent to the regional minimum wage of 323.50 pesos per day, from 30 to 90 days.

But the island workers were earning more than that amount. For instance, a souvenir vendor and masseuse can earn from 700 pesos to 900 pesos per day during the peak months.

The President is expected to declare a state of calamity on Boracay Island to allow the release of 2 billion pesos in public funds, which could be used to help displaced workers.


Business groups have lamented the lack of clear plans and guidelines on how the government will handle the dislocation of thousands of workers and the losses of business operators, especially those with bank loans and high overhead costs.

The island attracted more than 2 million visitors last year, generating 56 billion pesos in revenue.

The shutdown will result in 20 billion pesos in forgone revenue, according to the government.

Densing said the ban on swimming was to allow the environment to "heal" as part of efforts to rehabilitate the ecosystem of the island.

Policemen at Barangay Caticlan's jetty port on the mainland of Malay town will be tasked with inspecting those going to the island to ensure that there will be no tourists, according to Chief Inspector Joem Malong, spokesman for the Philippine National Police in Western Visayas.


Residents, including business operators, have decried the guidelines as unnecessary and violative of their rights.

"What's happening now is beyond improving infrastructure, correcting violations, road widening and (enforcing the) beach setback. Its direction is towards semi-martial law and people are now not only worried, but also scared and terrified," one said.

Iloilo-based lawyer Hector Teodosio questioned the restrictions on residents and visitors.

"There is no legal basis to restrict people from going to the beach or entering the island. These are potentially violations of our liberty to abode," he said.

Several people have also raised concerns over the deployment of military and police forces.

On Saturday (April 7), the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Western Visayas sent 139 more policemen to the island. They are trained in civil disturbance management, according to Malong.

The enforcement guidelines have yet to be finalised, said the PNP spokesman in Western Visayas.

04-13-2018, 08:10 AM
Boracay off-limits to Macau casino firm

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:02 AM April 13, 2018

HONG KONG - Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. may open a casino in the Philippines but not on Boracay Island, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

Galaxy last month won a provisional license for a $500-million integrated casino-resort project on the holiday island.

Roque said the grant of a provisional license to Galaxy gave it the right to operate a casino somewhere else.

President Duterte has ordered the closure of Boracay - which he described as a “cesspool” - for, at most, six months in order to rehabilitate it and clean it up. The closure starts on April 26.

“The President was talking about the physical existence of a casino in Boracay, which he will not allow unless he has issued a proclamation to this effect, because of the decision that Boracay is state-owned,” Roque said in a press briefing.

Provisional license

“So they (Galaxy) could have a provisional license. If they can’t build in Boracay, perhaps they could build elsewhere,” he added.

Roque said the President wanted to give priority to ordinary Filipinos and to farmers when it came to Boracay.

Before leaving for China on Monday, Mr. Duterte said he did not want a casino in Boracay.

December meeting

The President met with owners of Galaxy Entertainment last December. Three months later, the gambling regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), granted Galaxy a provisional license to operate a casino.

Asked about this meeting given Mr. Duterte’s position on the casino construction, Roque said: “Well of course, we welcome all investors.”

“But I think the President has already addressed the issue of a new casino in Boracay: ‘There will be no new casino in Boracay,’” he added.


Earlier, Malacañang officials had defended the proposed casino in Boracay amid efforts to clean it up, saying any new construction would comply with environmental rules and that building the casino was not inconsistent with the rehabilitation efforts.

Galaxy partnered with Leisure and Resorts World Corp., which acquired the 23-hectare lot, for the casino project.

The provisional license is only the start of a long process that will allow Galaxy to start operations, Pagcor said in a statement on Wednesday.

The companies have yet to submit documentary requirements such as proof of land ownership and a detailed project plan, it added. - LEILA B. SALAVERRIA

04-13-2018, 08:36 AM
That casino must go

By: Peter Wallace - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:26 AM April 12, 2018

The approval of a casino on Boracay MUST be canceled. There is no place for gamblers in paradise. Boracay is for nature lovers, not gamblers. There are plenty of wonderful (if you are foolish enough to be an inveterate gambler) casinos in Manila. You can waste your money there.

Leave Boracay and other idyllic resorts to those who love the sun, sand, and sea. Boracay is for enjoying the beauty of nature, something humans were trying to destroy until the President came along and voiced what all decent people who have visited knew: Boracay had become a cesspool. Let’s not spoil it with a monstrosity. (And it will be a monstrosity, I can assure you. Fit for a city, perhaps, but for a beach paradise, never.) Architecture should blend in, not garishly stand out.

Please support me. Mount a campaign to keep Boracay, and all other resorts, pristine. “NO CASINOS ON BORACAY.” Help me spread this on social media—through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Allow the government to rehabilitate Boracay, campaign against the construction of a casino and make the island more “Instagrammable,” as millennials call it. I will establish a website you can log on to and vote to support; in the meantime, please check www.wallacebusinessforum.com for our online poll.

What I’m worried about next is the “plan.” The President wants Boracay closed for six months starting April 26. Fine, although it’s a bit long for the good guys. But if all it’s going to result in is the destruction of a few buildings and the haphazard building of some septic tanks, then nothing will be achieved.

Are the wastewater companies ready to accept many new connections to their wastewater treatment facilities? Are the facilities sufficient? Or will they have to expand? Or, will one start from scratch, and build? Can that be done in six months? I doubt it.

Will they be recompensed for doing so?

Has a master plan of design been made and approved? Buildings to not only be more than 30 meters from the waterline, but, as in Bali, no taller than the coconut trees (three stories) and blending with nature, not fighting it in vulgarity? And soundly constructed? Has the Department of Public Works and Highways finalized the plan and put teams in place to improve the road system? Have the demolition teams been hired to get rid of the illegal structures?

Six months will speed by, and if the planning and follow-through implementation are not done, we’ll be no better-off than at the beginning. The President needs to form an emergency task force — today — of pertinent government agencies and private-sector experts (Jun Palafox can lead that group) that will include environmentalists to quickly (two weeks!) develop a plan. And be given the authority to rush it into action.

When all that is finished, a subsequent plan should be developed to cover all resorts. And Congress should prioritize giving it the force of law, with severe penalties for violation. Let’s stop the rot before it gets worse.

I rather like the idea of Ramon Ang to build a bridge connecting the island of Boracay to Caticlan in the Aklan mainland.

According to Ang, the bridge should lessen the number of people staying permanently on the island.

As I mentioned last week, there should be limits on the number of tourists. Boracay, and elsewhere, can only sustain a limited number of people—residents and tourists. Determine what that number is, and proceed from there.

We voted President Duterte into power because we wanted tough change. Enough of collusive violation of societal norms. Well, here’s a tough change started; it’s now up to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu (and he should be the one, he’s spoken sensibly on the issue already, and environmental protection must be the primary factor in deciding what is to be done) to lead the task force in installing permanent change on how we develop the beauty of the Philippines. Not rush to wantonly destroy it, as in the past.

A final point: The local officials responsible for the ruin of Boracay must be haled to court, and removed from office (if career officials) or never voted again (if elected).

I’m sure there are no casinos in heaven. There should be none in the paradise that Boracay can be.

04-19-2018, 08:55 AM
Pagcor: Galaxy hasn’t backed out of Boracay

By: Daxim L. Lucas - Reporter / @daxinq Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:22 AM April 19, 2018

The country’s gaming regulator belied reports that Galaxy Entertainment Group would abandon its plan to build an integrated resort in Boracay, saying a final decision has yet to be made on the controversial issue.

In a text message, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chair Andrea Domingo expressed surprise at the statement of a Department of Tourism (DOT) official on Tuesday about the Macau gaming giant’s supposed pullout from the deal, saying there was no formal communication between the two agencies about the matter.

Domingo added that Galaxy had not informed Pagcor about any changes to its plan to build a $500-million integrated resort on an inland property owned by its local partner, publicly listed Leisure and Resorts World Corp.

No final decision

At the same time, Leisure and Resorts World said in a statement that it continued to be in talks with Galaxy Entertainment about the project.

“Both parties have not reached any final decision regarding its planned Boracay resort project,” Leisure and Resorts World said. “Following protocol, no change in plans or project location would be made without prior consultation and agreement with Pagcor.”

The latest pronouncements run contrary to statements made by Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing that Galaxy had “abandoned” its planned Boracay project.

He made the statement in a press conference on Tuesday in the popular tourist island, which the government has decided to shut down for six months starting on April 26.

DOT clarification

Densing quoted Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre as saying that Galaxy Entertainment would abandon its Boracay project.

But Alegre clarified on Tuesday night that he was merely asked if such a report was true and that if it were, it would be a welcome development.

He added that the DOT had not received any official communication from Galaxy Entertainment and its local partner about their plans.

The conflicting statements on whether Galaxy would abandon its plan to put up a resort in Boracay came after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in Hong Kong last week that Galaxy may open a casino in the Philippines but not on the resort island.

Roque said President Duterte was against “the physical existence of a casino in Boracay.”

The President said he did not want a casino in Boracay, which he declared a land reform area.

The project proponents have committed to work with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ensure full compliance with laws.

Letter of no objection

Pagcor had already issued a provisional approval for the project after securing a “letter of no objection” from the local government, although Domingo said proponents would still have to comply with requirements to be able to get a license.

Based on the project’s design, the casino area’s maximum footprint would not exceed 7.5 percent of the resort’s floor area.

04-23-2018, 09:24 AM
Area for land reform in Boracay now bigger

DAR looking at 170 hectares of farms in 3 villages possible for distribution

By: Jaymee T. Gamil - Reporter / @jgamilINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:20 AM April 23, 2018

At least 170 hectares of land in Boracay could be placed under the agrarian reform program, contrary to earlier reports that there were only up to 4 hectares of farms in the world-famous island resort.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said updated figures showed the lands were in at least three villages.

The DAR said the new estimate was from a study commissioned to geodetic engineer Ronald Mendoza.

Mendoza headed a team that conducted a cadastral survey in Boracay from 2011 to 2012.

A summary of the study, obtained by Inquirer, showed there were 102 hectares of agricultural lots in the village of Manoc-Manoc, 32 hectares in Balabag and 36 hectares in Yapak that were “possible for DAR coverage.”

New estimate

The new figures superceded the estimate of 4 hectares made by Agrarian Reform Undersecretary David Erro last week.

Erro said his estimate was based on land use data in Boracay.

The updated figures would be presented to President Duterte, who had announced he would distribute lands to farmers in Boracay, in a future Cabinet meeting.

Mr. Duterte had called Boracay a cesspool where sewage was being thrown directly into the sea and ordered a cleanup drive.

Officials said Mr. Duterte had a legal basis to carry out agrarian reform in Boracay in Proclamation No. 1064 that divided the island’s classification as 400 hectares of protected forest land and more than 600 hectares as “alienable and disposable” agricultural land.

It was issued by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Marcos decree

Luis Pangulayan, agrarian reform undersecretary for legal affairs, said, however, that the Arroyo proclamation failed to reverse Proclamation 1801, issued by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, declaring Boracay and other areas as tourist spots and marine zones.

Pangulayan said the government could skip the normal process of acquiring lands in Boracay by applying Executive Order No. 407, also by Arroyo, seeking to accelerate the acquisition of lands for agrarian reform in Boracay.

With four days before authorities start enforcing Mr. Duterte’s order to close Boracay on April 26, residents and business operators on the island were still waiting for the written order from the President in the form of either an executive order, declaration or proclamation.

No black and white

Assistant Environment Secretary Epimaco Densing III on April 17 said the President was expected to issue the order and declaration last week.

Racefin Suco, municipal local government operations officer, said local officials had not received any advisory on the closure order and state of calamity declaration.

But even without the order, guidelines governing the closure have been disseminated.

Under the guidelines, only residents would be allowed to swim in the beach at Station 1 at the northern end of the island from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. only.

No floating structures would be allowed within 3 kilometers from the shoreline and fishing would be allowed only for Boracay residents, according to the guidelines which have not been officially released.

Officials said tourists would be stopped at the Caticlan jetty port and no visitors would be allowed except in cases of emergencies and with clearance from authorities. - With a report from Nestor P. Burgos Jr.

04-25-2018, 08:17 AM
6-month Boracay closure to cost economy P1.96B

Neda chief says other tourist spots to offset losses

By: Ben O. de Vera - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:30 AM April 25, 2018

The six-month closure of Boracay Island from tourists starting Thursday, April 26, will cost the economy about P1.96 billion, which the country’s chief economist said Tuesday would be compensated for by an increase in arrivals in other domestic tourist spots.

Citing an earlier estimate of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda director general Ernesto M. Pernia told a press briefing that the temporary closure of the popular tourist destination, which will be rehabilitated from environmental degradation, would shed only 0.1 percent from the gross domestic product this year.

Noting that the economy was currently about P14 trillion worth and was expected to grow by at least 7 percent this year, about P980 million a quarter would be lost, especially in the affected local government units.

“Boracay [island], Malay [town], Aklan [province] and Region 6 will suffer—their growth rates will be trimmed,” Pernia said.

For Western Visayas, its gross regional domestic product growth would be cut by 5.7 percentage points, Pernia added.

The Neda chief nonetheless said that “on the other hand, there will be other areas in the Visayas earning some increase in growth rates; also, Luzon and Mindanao will have some increase” as tourists are instead expected to flock to other destinations in the country.

“We are only assuming that 50 percent of the volume of tourists going to Boracay will be going to the other [local] destinations. I would assume that closer to 70-75 percent of those who used to go to Boracay will go to the other tourist destinations, especially domestic tourists,” Pernia said.

“It’s going to be a temporary shortfall in terms of tourism income and tourist arrivals,” Pernia added.

“Regarding the possible shortfall in tourist arrivals due to the Boracay closure, the Department of Tourism will have to step up its efforts at advertising and marketing our several other tourist destinations, so the same volume of tourists, if not more, will be diverted to these other beautiful locations,” the Neda chief said in a separate statement.

Private stakeholders in the tourism industry earlier projected that economic losses from the six-month closure of the world-renowned island could exceed P50 billion in tourism revenues while 35,000 jobs would be lost. Most affected are the resorts and airlines, which have already cut back on their flights to and from the island.

04-26-2018, 01:35 PM
Fire sale, riot drill, TRO plea as Boracay party ends – for now

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:06 AM April 26, 2018

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan - This resort island suddenly became more affordable, as police in riot gear staged drills and workers mounted a last-ditch effort to stop its closure to tourists for up to six months.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered Boracay off-limits to tourists from Thursday so it can be rehabilitated, after pronouncing the 1,032-hectare island a “cesspool.”

Two days before the closure, signs showing reduced prices of goods and services were everywhere.

The D’Mall commercial complex at the heart of the long beach here had been transformed into a bagsak presyo (cut-price) center.

Along the beach, branded Boracay shirts originally priced at P199.75 were being sold at P100 per piece. Sunglasses were sold at half the previous price.

Hotels and restaurants were offering discounts on food to dispose of their stocks. Several resorts lowered their room rates to up to 50 percent. Others upgraded the accommodations of their guests for free.

It was buy-one-take-one for fruit shakes at a hotel near Boat Station 1 at the northern end of the island.

Explosions, gunfire

On the eve of the shutdown, explosions and gunfire erupted near Willy’s Rock formation.

Security forces, including those from the Navy Special Warfare Group (SWAG) and PNP Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), simulated a violent protest rally, bombing and hostage-taking, startling the laid-back beach community.

The exercise included a sea chase and gun battle with aerial support in a cordoned-off area.

While government officials lauded the exercise, several residents, including expatriates, decried the security measures as “overkill.”

“They’ve gone completely nuts. [Explosions], gunshots from everywhere, helicopters with machine guns hovering over the island. Is this to scare the last tourists away and intimidate the remaining residents so they will be submissive?” a resident said.

An expatriate said the massive security measures sent a negative image of the island. “Ridiculous,” another resident said.

Police officials defended the measures.

Unhampered rehab

PNP Deputy Director General Fernando Mendez Jr. said the measures were meant to ensure “continuous and unhampered” rehabilitation efforts.

The priority is to fix the drainage, sewage lines, water treatment system and the roads, and to remove easement violations on the beach and illegal structures on wetlands and forestlands.

Some residents complain they were not given a chance to comply with laws that are only now being enforced.

Canadian Allan Lieberman has called Boracay home for three decades. Despite having legal papers and permits issued by local authorities, he’s demolishing his 10-year-old cliffside resort, in anticipation of being evicted for occupying a plot that is supposed to be protected forestland.

He thinks it’s was time for him to leave anyway.

“Boracay? I hate Boracay,” he said, as a team of workers behind him took down solar panels and wooden poles. “There’s nothing of the old Boracay left. Even if restored, its soul has gone.”

Last-ditch effort

In a last-ditch effort, three private individuals—Boracay residents and workers—asked the Supreme Court to halt the closure.

“Petitioners [are] seeking relief from a blatantly oppressive governmental measure that would deprive them of their livelihood, violate their rights and cause suffering for them, their families, and thousands of other [people] living and working on the island,” the petition read.

It added that the President’s directive to keep Boracay off limits to tourists was “marked by single-handedness, arbitrariness, and the usurpation of authority vested by the Constitution in another branch.”

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Supreme Court had ruled that the government primarily owned the island, which was why it could close it to tourists in the exercise of its police power to protect the environment.


The closure threatens the livelihood of 17,000 hotel, restaurant and other tourism workers, plus about 11,000 construction workers.

More than 2 million tourists visited Boracay, pumping P56 billion in revenue into the Philippine economy.

Local officials are scheduled to close Boracay to tourists starting at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday “with or without” an executive order from President Duterte.

Only residents and workers with ID cards and terminal passes will be allowed to purchase boat tickets at the Caticlan port in Malay town before proceeding to Boracay.

While many residents and business owners were resigned to the island’s closure, some were facing the challenge in high spirits.

‘Boodle fight’

Owners and employees of the Sea Wind Boracay resort were set to hold a “boodle fight” on Wednesday night. In a boodle fight, people eat food on a long table with their bare hands.

“We would be with our employees because they are like family to us. And we didn’t want to be gloomy because this was also an opportunity to make Boracay better,” Ruth Tirol-Jarantilla, one of the owners, told the Inquirer.

Resort operator Hayden Bandiola said he would bring his 40 staff members to a spring resort in Antique province for a fun trip on April 28.

“Many of us will not be seeing each other for several months and I would like us to part ways in a positive note and with no ill-feelings,” he said.

Several residents, expatriates and business owners were having dinner and drinks until midnight on Thursday to mark the closure. - With reports from Marlon Ramos, Leila B. Salaverria and the wires

10-30-2019, 07:59 AM
‘Cesspool’ problem hounds Boracay

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:50 AM October 26, 2019

(First of three parts)

BORACAY ISLAND, AKLAN—Is the much-touted rehabilitation of world-renowned Boracay as successful as claimed?

Early last year, President Duterte said the resort island had become a “cesspool” and ordered its shutdown to prevent its further deterioration. Boracay was thus closed to tourists for six months in 2018—from April 26 to Oct. 25.

In his State of the Nation Address last July, the President declared: “We cleaned and rehabilitated the island, and I allowed it to heal naturally. I am proud to say that it has been restored close to its original pristine state.”

But last September, an underwater video of a pipe discharging dark-colored wastewater into the sea went viral. It raised apprehension that the main environmental concern in Boracay—ensuring that water quality is within acceptable standards—has not been fully and strategically addressed.

It also refueled criticism that the hastily implemented six-month closure of the island, which resulted in the loss of jobs for thousands of workers and crippled, if not closed down, many businesses, was unnecessary because rehabilitation activities could have gone on for years.

Legal complaints

In fact, a significant number of workers who were laid off or were told to temporarily stop working during the six-month shutdown have not returned to work even if most business establishments resumed operations when the island was reopened to tourists a year ago.

One hotel official said about 40 percent of their workers found jobs elsewhere during the shutdown.

For alleged negligence in the management of Boracay Island, complaints were filed against 17 officials, including Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores and Mayor Ciceron Cawaling and all municipal councilors of Malay.

In April 2018, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the complaint against all of the officials, except for two: Cawaling and municipal licensing officer Jen Salsona. They were found guilty of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, conduct unbecoming of a public official and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Cawaling won as mayor in this year’s elections but was prevented by the Department of the Interior and Local Government from assuming office pending the resolution of his appeal on his dismissal.

In November last year, the National Bureau of Investigation filed graft and malversation complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman against former and incumbent officials of Malay for the alleged misuse of millions of pesos in environmental fees collected from tourists.

But one respondent claimed to have yet to receive a subpoena or order from the Ombudsman in connection with the NBI complaints almost a year after these were filed.

Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said he and other officials were also still awaiting the report of the Commission on Audit on the use of the environmental fees collected from tourists visiting Boracay.

The report will be the basis for the possible filing of administrative cases against the former and incumbent officials.

Sewage treatment

During the shutdown, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) required commercial establishments, especially those along the beach front, that were not connected to the centralized sewer system, to put up individual or clustered sewage treatment plants (STPs).

A modular STP costs from P2.5 million to P3 million.

The DENR subsequently entered into a controversial agreement with Boracay Tubi System Inc. (BTSI), controlled by MacroAsia Corp., to build 105 STPs on the island.

A number of business operators and residents questioned the mandatory putting up of STPs for the reason that a centralized sewage treatment system already existed. The system is operated by the water service provider, Boracay Island Water Co. (BIWC), controlled by the Ayala subsidiary Manila Water.

According to business operators, efforts should have been focused on ensuring that establishments were connected to the centralized sewer system. They said individual STPs would be difficult to monitor and regulate and would increase the risk of the discharge of untreated wastewater.

Cease-and-desist order

Their fears proved true last September, when the BTSI discharge pipe was caught on video spewing dark-colored wastewater.

The pipe, stretching a kilometer from the shoreline to the sea, was supposed to discharge treated wastewater from at least 49 STPs of hotels and resorts.

The DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) issued a cease-and-desist order on BTSI after water samples taken from the mouth of the outfall failed acceptable levels of fecal coliform bacteria and phosphate.

But the order was lifted on Sept. 24, after the water quality at the outfall reached acceptable standards, according to lawyer Ramar Neil Pascua, DENR-EMB Western Visayas director.

Joint sampling

Pascua said BTSI’s violation had been endorsed to the DENR’s Pollution and Adjudication Board for the meting of a recommended maximum fine of P321,000 per day for eight days, or P2.56 million.

In a statement released a week after the cease-and-desist order was issued, BTSI said it had resolved the issue. It cited results of a joint sampling with the DENR conducted on Sept. 21 showing fecal coliform bacteria within tolerable levels.

It said that all wastewater was being treated on-site at the STP of establishments, and that excess water passed an interceptor before being discharged into the sea.

Illegal pipes

Pipes discharging untreated wastewater on the beach and into the drainage system were among the factors cited for the poor water quality of Boracay.

But the DENR claimed that these illegal pipes were detected and plugged or removed during the island’s shutdown.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu earlier claimed that the highest coliform bacteria level in the past months was 40 (most probable number/100 milliliters), way lower than the acceptable level of 100 MPN/100 ml.

BIWC also installed individual STPs for 13 establishments, according to Blanca Eunicia Aldaba, its head of business operations. It is also upgrading the sewer line on the island’s main road.

Connections to the centralized sewer system operated by BIWC increased from 1,189 in December 2018 to 1,350 this year.

Centralized STPs

BTSI installed at least 67 STPs.

But nearly a year after the reopening of Boracay, the coverage of the centralized sewer system remains at its preclosure area of 61 percent of the 1,032-hectare island.

Aldaba said the focus had been on the upgrading of sewer pipes along the main road and the putting up of individual STPs.

BIWC is operating two centralized STPs, one each in Barangays Manoc-Manoc and Balabag, which have been compliant with environmental and water quality standards.

Construction of a third STP in Barangay Yapak, at the northern end of the island, will start in the third quarter of 2020 and is due for completion in the first quarter of 2023. This will make the island fully covered by the sewer system.

BIWC has begun putting up the pipes going to Yapak, with 17 percent completed as of Sept. 27. Completion is due next year, according to Aldaba.

10-30-2019, 08:02 AM
Land rows stalling rehab of Boracay forest, wetlands

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:05 AM October 27, 2019

(Second of three parts)

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan, Philippines — The recovery of at least five of the nine wetlands here was part of the focus of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) when the island was closed to tourists from April 26 to Oct. 25, 2018.

Wetlands help prevent or minimize flooding by acting as a sponge for excess water. Many of Boracay’s wetlands have been covered by developers or used for the illegal dumping of wastewater and solid waste.

Their poor state is considered one of the causes of flooding on the island.

Boracay’s nine wetlands comprise a total of 37.81 hectares. Eight are in forest lands, and one is in an area categorized as alienable and disposable, according to the BIATF-drafted Boracay Action Plan.

According to the report of the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), 548 structures, of which 455 are residential, are encroaching on the wetlands. At least 85 percent of those living there returned to their places of origin during the shutdown of the island.

Eighty-five houses identified by the DENR as illegally occupying Wetland No. 6 in Barangay Manoc-Manoc were demolished in May 2018.

Five of the nine wetlands have been adopted for rehabilitation and development by private companies under separate memorandums of agreement with the DENR.

The projects that are being implemented in phases involve the restoration of wetlands and their development into linear parks or ecotourism areas.

Still there

The companies that are funding and undertaking the wetlands’ rehabilitation and development are the Lopez-led Energy Development Corp. (Wetland No. 2), San Miguel Corp. (Wetland No. 3), Aboitiz Equity Ventures (Wetland No. 4), the Lucio Tan-controlled Boracay Tubi System Inc. (Wetland No. 6) and the Gokongwei-led JG Summit Petrochemical Corp. (Wetland No. 8 )

Almost a year after Boracay’s reopening to tourists, most of the 885 structures earlier identified by the DENR as illegally built in forest lands have not been removed.

Natividad Bernardino, general manager of the Boracay Interagency Rehabilitation Management Group, which manages the rehabilitation efforts, said complaints had been filed against the property owners and claimants for unlawful occupation of forest land.

The BIATF has also identified an area on the island that will serve as a permanent relocation site for residents removed from wetlands.

At Bulabog beach on the eastern side of the island, a number of residential and commercial structures identified by the BIATF as violating the 30-meter beach easement have yet to be removed.

Bernardino said that as of Oct. 11, eight of 28 commercial and residential buildings in violation of beach easement had not complied with demolition orders issued by the local government of Malay.

She said the structure owners were contesting the demolition order and had filed an appeal at the Office of the President.

Almost done

Property owners, including expatriates, are contesting the delineation of easement, saying they were previously granted permits and clearances by national government agencies and the local government.

Many of the owners have invested their life savings in their properties.

On the other hand, the removal of structures encroaching on the easement of the main road from the Cagban jetty in Barangay Manoc-Manoc to CityMall in Barangay Yapak is almost completed.

Bernardino said the remaining overhangs of 19 buildings along the road were being demolished.

The BIATF identified around 1,400 structures encroaching on the island’s road network easement before the island was shut down. At least half were removed when the island reopened.

Bernardino said an inventory would still be conducted for an updated figure of the structures that needed to be demolished.

But some property owners believe that their rights have been violated by the demolition of structures or by government officials pressuring them to raze their properties themselves. They have filed or are planning to file criminal and administrative complaints against personnel of the DENR, Department of Tourism and Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Said a property owner who asked not to be named: “Most of us were afraid because of the heavy-handed measures they imposed during the closure. We have no choice, and we are also protecting our businesses. But they forget that [President] Duterte will not be in power forever.”

(To be concluded)


10-30-2019, 08:07 AM
Pitfalls remain on Boracay’s road to sustainable tourism

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:53 AM October 28, 2019

(Last of three parts)

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan, Philippines — Spencer Anderson was walking on the main road last March on his way to meet his wife to view the sunset.

The 71-year-old retiree from Canada, who has been living in Boracay for 10 years, stopped briefly across Crafts store near Lake Town to greet friends when suddenly, the ground he was standing on gave way and he fell into a 2-meter-deep hole with protruding pieces of rebar.

He was apparently standing on a piece of thin plywood that covered an excavation on the road, where a sewer construction project was going on.

Anderson had to be pulled out by other residents. He suffered a deep wound below his knee that required seven stitches to close. He was immobilized for weeks.

“It’s negligence on the part of contractors,” he told the Inquirer.

No warning signs

Several other tourists and residents have been injured after falling into road excavations with no barriers or warning signs.

Natividad Bernardino, general manager of the Boracay Interagency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIRMG), said the contractors, government agencies and private companies undertaking road projects had been directed to cover the excavations or put up barriers and warning signs.

The Department of Public Works and Highways has also covered the unattended excavations.


The upgrading and widening of the 20-kilometer road network on the island, along with the upgrading of the sewer system, are main components of the rehabilitation of Boracay.

The road is designed to be 6 meters wide, with a two-lane carriageway and 2-meter sidewalks on each side. It will also have loading and unloading bays, pavers, streetlights and vegetation.

Despite the six-month shutdown of the island, only the first phase of the project worth P490 million has been completed. It covers 4.12 km from the Cagban port in Barangay Manoc-Manoc to the Elizalde property in Barangay Balabag.

The second phase covering 3.3 km and worth P300 million was started last Jan. 10 and is due for completion on July 28, 2020. It covers the 1.9-km road from the Elizalde property to CityMall in Barangay Yapak at the northern end of the island, where most of the high-end resorts are located. It also includes a 1.4-km span from the Crossing Rotunda to the Tambisaan port.

Traffic jams, mud

Travel on the unfinished portion of the main road is rough and dusty. There are traffic jams on hot days and mud on rainy days.

Last May and July, flash floods hit Boracay. Tourists and residents had to wade in floodwaters up to a meter, triggering outrage from the latter.

“The Department of Tourism is brandishing Boracay as a model for sustainable tourism. Maybe sustainable flooding?” an irate resident said.

The BIRMG has appealed for understanding. “We are still not done with all these projects [which] will be completed by the middle of next year,” Bernardino said. “In the meantime … we need to bear with many pains and sacrifices.”

1st among 30

This month, Boracay ranked first in the 2019 Readers’ Choice Award of Condé Nast Traveler’s “30 best islands in the world outside the United States” category.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the recognition showed that “the rehabilitation was worth it amid many hardships.”

Puyat said the Department of Tourism was regulating the number of tourists to ensure that it would be within the island’s carrying capacity of 19,215 at any given time and daily arrivals of 6,405.

As of last Sept. 24, the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) had accredited as compliant to environmental and other requirements 378 accommodation establishments with a total of 14,021 rooms.

From January to September this year, 1,601,450 tourists visited the island, or an average of 5,931 daily, bordering the average daily carrying capacity. The figures are more than the 1,529,895 visitors recorded for the same period in 2017.

Tourists are required to prebook accommodation before they are allowed to proceed to the island from the Caticlan jetty port.

“LaBoracay” beach parties involving tens of thousands have also been prohibited.

Cruise ship tourists

But a number of business operators and residents are questioning the continued policy of allowing stops of cruise ships on the island. They say whatever benefits the visits of cruise ships bring to Boracay are offset by the road and beach congestion.

These visits are also contrary to the government’s announced thrust of regulating tourist arrivals.

“Sustainable tourism entails stopping mass tourism. We must also decide: What kind of tourism and tourists do we want to attract?” a resident who runs a business on the island said, adding:

“Do we want cruise ship tourists, Chinese mass tourism, high-end casino players, or ecotourism? To mix all these kinds of tourism is not healthy and is not working.”

Boracay Action Plan

In December 2018, or two months after the island was reopened to tourists, government agencies adopted the Boracay Action Plan—a road map for rehabilitation and development efforts. President Duterte approved the plan last July.

The 152-page plan lays down key areas: enforcement of laws and regulations, pollution control and prevention, rehabilitation and recovery of the ecosystem, and sustainability of island activities.

Implementation of the projects, programs and activities under the plan will cost P25.27 billion until 2022, when Mr. Duterte steps down.

The bulk, or P16.21 billion, will be allotted for infrastructure, and P5.13 billion for pollution control and prevention.

The private sector will finance P15.89 billion, or about 63 percent of the total cost.

The plan includes the creation of an institutional structure that will manage Boracay after the mandate of the BIATF ends in April 2020, unless extended by the President.

It calls for studies on appropriate structures, including one that is led by national agencies with local government participation, or by a self-regulating body led by the tourism services industry similar to the Bali Tourism Board.

There have been previous proposals for the creation of a Boracay Island Council, or an authority that will remove the island from the sole administration of local government units.

Bills filed

Sen. Franklin Drilon has refiled a bill for the creation of a Boracay Development Authority. Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. has authored a related bill for a Boracay Island Council.

The measures would grant supervisory, management and regulatory powers to the multiagency body.

A number of residents and business owners are hoping that the administrative body will be created when the mandate of the BIATF ends.

“At the very least we should have a board composed of experts managing everything on the island professionally, and not attached to politics,” a resident said.

Yearly visitor

Olga Zubritskaya has been vacationing in Boracay yearly since 2010. She spends four months on the island in every visit, along with her husband or her children aged 7 and 5.

The Moscow resident welcomed the improvements on the island following its closure. She said the roads were wider, making it faster to travel from the port to the hotel.

She also welcomed the clearing of illegal structures on White Beach.

But Zubritskaya frowned on the total ban on beach beds and tables under coconut trees and at the vegetation line.

“I don’t want to lie on the sand even with a towel because I could be bitten by ants, and dogs urinate on the sand,” she said.

‘Beach much wider’

She suggested that a limited number of tables and chairs be allowed at a specific time along the vegetation line.

Residents and business owners have also welcomed the major improvements.

“White Beach is now much wider and looks like a beach again, and not a street market,” said an expatriate living in Boracay for decades.

But many tourists, residents and business owners said some of the policies being implemented should be changed because these were affecting the tourists’ experience.

“White Beach might be looking nice and wider, but it is missing many components that international travelers expect: beach beds and sun umbrellas, and also dinner within the vegetation area,” a resident said.