THE House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading the Duterte administration’s priority bill creating the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA), a body that tourism stakeholders and island groups opposed because it was first tailored to become a powerful state corporation.
Voting 192 affirmative, 7 negative, and 0 abstentions, lawmakers approved House Bill 9826 or the proposed BIDA Act.Under the bill, the proposed government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) to be known as BIDA shall be created to ensure continuous development of the famous tourist area and carry on the gains from its earlier rehabilitation.
The bill said BIDA shall manage, develop, operate, preserve, and rehabilitate the Boracay Island Development Zone, which shall include the entirety of Boracay Island and surrounding islets including Barangay Caticlan.
It addded the development zone shall be transformed into a self-sustaining industrial, commercial, leisure, financial, and investment center to generate employment opportunities and attract and promote productive local and foreign investments, while strictly prioritizing the protection and preservation of the natural resources and biodiversity of Boracay Island.
The bill also said a Boracay Action Plan geared towards investment sustainability and balanced development in the island shall be formulated and implemented.
The measure said international standards of excellence in all tourism facilities and services shall be maintained with the end goal of promoting Boracay Island as an environmentally sustainable and safety-conscious tourism destination.
It added programs and activities such as eco-farm tourism, lifestyle, medical and wellness, local arts and crafts, outdoor recreation, and other social activities like family reunions and celebrations, corporate conferences, and those with environmental preservation and conservation themes shall be promoted.
Not as GOCC
During the hearing on the bill, Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores expressed support for the creation of the BIDA as a regulatory body but not as a GOCC.
Earlier, the BusinessMirror reported that several tourism stakeholders and island associations have expressed their opposition to the creation of the BIDA as a powerful GOCC.
In a position paper, 17 multisectoral groups with nearly 20,000 members, along with barangay captains of Yapak, Manoc-Manoc and Balabag in Malay, Aklan, said, “We are one in our strong opposition to BIDA as a GOCC, clothed with powers and functions, which duplicate, and overlap with, those already vested upon and exercised by the national government’s line and attached agencies and violate the policy of devolution and decentralization, and repugnant to the very essence of federalism advocated and espoused by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte himself.”
The groups added they were in “ardent opposition” to the BIDA GOCC “with powers and functions which encroach upon and divest local government units of their constitutionally granted [1987 Philippine Constitution] local autonomy and law-mandated powers and functions, rights and prerogatives,” as provided under Republic Act 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991).
Image credits: Stella Arnaldo