SERIOUS NEGLECT OF BORACAY

February 13, 2018

Children enjoy swimming in Boracay Island near a rock outcrop. President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a “cleanup” of Boracay within six months. GUIJO DUEÑAS/PN

Du30: Local officials may face charges

ILOILO City – President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to charge local officials with serious neglect of duty for the degradation of Boracay Island.

Boracay is under the jurisdiction of the local government of Malay, Aklan.

According to the President, local officials tolerated the construction of structures in the world-famous island resort even without proper sewerage system.

“Pinabayaan ninyo…the building of structures overlapping the coastline…Inyo ‘yan e,” Duterte said in a speech at the launching of the Malasakit Programs for Visayas in Cebu City yesterday afternoon.

At a recent House Committee on Tourism hearing, Secretary Wanda Teo of the Department of Tourism said one environmental concern in Boracay was the lack of sewage treatment.

Around 100 commercial establishments in Boracay engaged in improper waste management, thus contaminating the island’s waters, she said.

“You stink like shit,” Duterte said and gave local officials six months to clean up Boracay or he would “close” the island.

Environment secretary Roy Cimatu revealed land management problems in Boracay, too.

“About 400 hectares in Boracay are forestlands. However, about 600 buildings are in the forestland and they are occupied by 3,000 to 4,000 illegal settlers. These illegal settlers are competing with tourism as far as services are concerned. Meaning, the disposal of garbage, water management, everything,” said Cimatu.

The Environment chief wondered how these settlers were able to construct buildings in Boracay.

“You are only allowed to build when you have a permit from the local government,” said Cimatu at a recent House Committee on Tourism hearing.

Duterte said cleaning up Boracay may entail dismantling of structures.

“Lahat ng water walang treatment. ‘Yung tubig ninyo sa banyo diretso sa dagat…I will charge you for serious neglect of duty,” he warned local officials without identifying any.

The current mayor of Malay, Aklan is Ceciron Cawaling. He was elected in 2016 but previously held the post for nine years from 2001 to 2010 before he was succeeded by John Yap to serve as Malay mayor from 2010 to 2016.

Yap’s father Jose was the mayor of Malay from 1992 to 2001.

Boracay’s tourism industry started booming in the 1980s. The mayors of Malay during those years were Roger Sta. Maria Aguirre (1986 to 1990) and Sergio Sim Prado (1990 to 1992).

BORACAY MASTER PLAN

Samar’s Cong. Edgar Mary Sarmiento stressed the importance of establishing a roadmap for ensuring the sustainability of Boracay and other popular tourist destinations.

He introduced House Resolution (HR) No. 1087 which sought to determine necessary actions of government to prevent the deterioration of local tourist spots, especially the famous Boracay.

“The ocular inspection in Boracay during the House’s Western-Eastern Nautical Highway Expedition last March 2017 prompted me to file this resolution. What I witnessed there made me deeply concerned,” said Sarmiento.

But the dumping of waste into the sea and overcrowding of establishments in Boracay were just two of the concerns in the island. The others were solid waste management disposal, drainage problems that lead to flooding, resorts built over natural bodies or water, and traffic caused by overcrowding.

Tourism secretary Teo pushed for the creation of a Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force to address the island’s longtime and emerging problems.

The task force may be formed via executive order from the President, she said.

Pocholo Paragas, chief operating officer of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, agreed with Sarmiento that a roadmap or master plan is needed to save Boracay and other tourist sites from similar problems.

“What we’re planning to do now, P1 billion to P1.4 billion will be allocated…to fix the drainage program [Boracay]. Initially there was a seven-year plan to build it in phases, but based on what’s happening right now…because the other island areas which are already deemed developed…are starting to be overdeveloped without a correct master plan, it will have the same problem,” Paragas said./PN