DESPITE opposition from government agencies, local government units, stakeholders, and fellow congressmen, two committees in the House of Representatives approved the creation of the Boracay Island Development Authority (Bida) as a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC).
The means the Substitute Bill to House Bills 4175, 6214, 6285, 7249, 7256, 7280, 7294, 7313, 7360, and 7931 creating the Bida, as contained in a House Committee Report, is now up for plenary discussion.
Since then, a “No to Bida as GOCC” movement has been set up on the island, supported by a number of residents and business owners. A businessman in Boracay who requested anonymity told the BusinessMirror, “They railroaded the Bida in the committee. The approval was scripted even though there were many participants who spoke out against it.”
The Substitute Bill, not only will “manage, develop, preserve, and rehabilitate” Boracay, it also gives Bida control over Brgy. Caticlan in the municipality of Malay, “and the entire area occupied by the airport, which extends to the municipality of Nabas.” It also gives Bida the power to “contract, lease, buy, sell, acquire, own or dispose movable and immovable, as well as personal and real property of whatever nature, including shares.” (See, “New bill on Boracay Island regulatory authority opposed,” in the BusinessMirror, February 28, 2021.
‘A golden opportunity’
After interested parties made plain their opposition to the bill, Rep. Eric Go Yap (ACT-CIS), coauthor of the HB6214 with Davao Rep. Paolo Z. Duterte—son of President Duterte —and another Davaoeño, Sandro L. Gonzalez (Marino), sought the approval of the Substitute Bill during a hearing on June 15, saying he understood the concerns raised by those opposed to the proposed legislation.
But he said in Filipino, they saw “a golden opportunity to create a GOCC. We shouldn’t pass this up; Boracay is not only for those in Aklan but it belongs to all Filipinos as it has been a huge help to the country. That’s why I and chairman Paolo Duterte will not stop until we pass this Bida bill because we know it’s for everyone’s good.”
However, Yap failed to respond to the issues raised by the national government agencies, LGUs, and colleagues in the House opposed to the Bida.
For one, Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores said, the proposed bill “encroaches, diminishes, or even divests the constitutionally and legally mandated powers of local government units, specifically its local autonomy and power to generate and apply resources and just share in the national taxes.” He added, “There are 19 existing government agencies that can undertake the function of the Bida.”
Natividad Bernardino, chairman of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group and a director of the Department of Environment and National Resources, pointed out, “The problem of Boracay is one of overtourism and overdevelopment. What we need in terms of sustaining the rehabilitation and ecological sustainability of the island is a regulatory body instead of a GOCC.”
She stressed that the island has already exceeded its carrying capacity for the environment and population, and “There is no more space for further investment and development.”
Interior Undersecretary Epimaco V. Densing III said the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, proposed a professionally managed Bida “primarily to manage and ensure that the environment in the area will not be degraded and preserve it to make it sustainable.”
John Castillo of the Department of Budget and Management said the agency agreed with the Department of Finance that Bida as a GOCC, “will create a redundancy… and is inconsistent with the ongoing policy of streamlining the government corporate sector.” (See, “Dominguez nixes proposed Boracay authority’s roles,” in the BusinessMirror, March 2, 2021.)
Aklan Rep Teodorico Haresco Jr. cited Executive Order 138 of President Duterte signed on June 1 implementing the so-called Mandanas Ruling, where the Supreme Court ruled that “basic services and facilities shall be devolved from the national government to provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays… ” As such, he said, the Bida as a GOCC-bill runs counter to said EO.
He said he earlier supported the younger Duterte’s original bill establishing a Bida as a regulatory authority, but couldn’t understand why it morphed into a GOCC in the proposed new legislation.
After Yap’s statements, Rep. Noel Villanueva, chairman of the Committee on Local Government, quickly approved the Committee report, despite his earlier withdrawal of support and co-authorship to the Substitute Bill, noting the massive opposition to it. Said report was also approved by the Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization, of which Yap is vice chair, after the joint hearing.
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