Boracay business owners oppose ‘state of calamity’ 

In Photo: This drainage pipe spews out sewage and other untreated effluents from homes and establishments, turning the waters of Bulabog Beach a murky brown. Bulabog is where wind sports are traditionally held, and tourists have complained of rashes and itchiness after being in its waters.

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BUSINESS owners, resort owners and sporting associations on Boracay Island on Thursday expressed alarm over the proposal of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for President Duterte to declare the island under a “state of calamity.”

In a statement sent to the BusinessMirror, Elena Brugger, president of the 55-member Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay, said: “We are finally glad to read that someone is coming up with a solution to the problems with the local government. I agree that certain officials have been appointed but are not able to perform their tasks, and it is a good idea to let professionals and a team with technical knowledge and expertise from the national government to perform that task instead.”

However, she said, the group rejects the use of the word, “calamity. ‘Calamity’ stands for an event causing sudden damage or distress and is often referred to as a disaster.”

She added that, while the group supports the demolition of properties that have violated several laws, they don’t support the demolition of properties that “do not have the proper paperwork, but are compliant with all the rules.” She pointed out that there are resorts, which have been operating “without an ECC [environment compliance certificate] just because of lapses of the previous DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] people.”

On Wednesday a DILG official revealed the agency’s proposal to fellow members of the interagency task force on Boracay, to declare a state of calamity in the island to allow national government agencies to clean it up, implement needed infrastructure programs and dismantle illegal structures. Other members of the interagency task force are the DENR and the Department of Tourism (DOT). (See, “DILG: Place Boracay under state of calamity,” in the BusinessMirror, February 22, 2018.)

For her part, Nenette Graf, a resort owner and president of the Boracay Windsport Association, also objected to a declaration of a state of calamity on the island, as it “will paralyze our industry.” She suggested the government first “stop the chartered flights and cruise ships to allow the island to breathe, while they close and demolish the structures of violators with no proper permits.”

She added that, if only the national government had listened to the stakeholders of Boracay, as well as the local government unit, which had appealed to help Boracay, “agencies like the DENR that appeared to be deaf and blind when developers were destroying the forest, putting up needed infrastructure, and righting the wrong projects here, we wouldn’t have had to reach this dismal situation.”

She noted that her association uses the Bulabog Beach for their sporting activities, which is where sewage has been spilling out of a drainage pipe and dirtying the waters there. “For eight years we’ve been begging the Tieza [Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority] to solve the pollution issue caused by its unfinished and nonfunctioning drainage system, which it has been trying to complete for the 10 years!” Tieza, formerly the Philippine Tourism Authority, is the infrastructure arm of the DOT.

Brugger cautioned the national government from taking over the management of the island: “[This] needs to be well planned and worked out.”

Under Republic Act 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, a “disaster” is described as a “as a result of the combination of: the exposure to a hazard; the conditions of vulnerability that are present; and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce or cope with the potential negative consequences. Disaster impacts may include loss of life, injury, disease and other negative effects on human, physical, mental and social well-being, together with damage to property, destruction of assets, loss of services, social and economic disruption, and environmental degradation.”

The law allows the declaration of a state of calamity even in the wake of a “human-induced” disaster. It can be declared either by the President, upon recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, or issued by the local sanggunian, upon recommendation of a local disaster management council. (http://bit.ly/2oh6jlB)

On Wednesday the secretaries of  the DOT, DENR and DILG convened for a meeting to discuss efforts to rehabilitate Boracay, famous the world over for its white-sand beach. President Duterte had given the DENR and DILG six months to fix its problems, or he will have to close it.

“We are here to save Boracay, to restore Boracay to its original form, which used to be a paradise before,” said Tourism  Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo in a news briefing after her closed-door meeting with Environment  Secretary Roy A. Cimatu and Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año.

In 2017 Boracay received about 2 million tourists, half of whom were foreigners, while the rest were domestic travelers. The island generated some P56 million in visitor receipts for the tourism industry last year.

 

Image Credits: Image grab from D.O.T. video