Inside Boracay: Week 23 Getting Ready to Re-open

Cover Photo Credit: Jack Jarilla

Cover Photo Credit: Jack Jarilla

Inside Boracay: Week 23 and just 22 days before the Island opens for Phase 1; on 26th October

  • Wristbands mooted for tourists entering Boracay
  • Another form of ID muted for residents
  • Continued lack of genuine Consultation with Islanders and Stakeholders
  • Environment department declares Boracay’s water safe and clean
  • Entry and Exit Points Announced for Dry Run Opening of 15th October

Inside Boracay: Week 23 – September 27th Access ID’s being considered

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are considering ways in which Tourist Arrival numbers can be controlled, when Boracay re-opens at the end of this month.

Their concerns lie with stopping guests from entering where they have no confirmed hotel booking. Or where their confirmed booking is with a hotel not yet declared compliant.  As well as managing the numbers of Tourists entering the island.

With just 3 weeks to go until reopening various ideas have been muted.  Most of which probably require a greater lead in than just 3 weeks to implement.  The top two suggestions:-

Wrist Bands – tourists would be issued with Wrist Bands on arrival, to identify them as having been processed and cleared to enter the island.  Some islanders do not like this idea, feeling it is an imposition to require visitors to the island to wear a wristband during their stay.   The solution suggested, to reduce the feeling of imposition, was to enable the wrist band to be loaded with electronic cash, which can be used to pay for food and drinks.  Rather than carrying a wallet around.

This idea is much like the BoraPay wristband that operated on the island a few years back, and which many hotels, bars and restaurants signed up to, so the technology already exists.

Online Database System – tourists would be required to sign in, ahead of their arrival giving their arrival and departure dates, as well as the name of the hotel where they will be staying.  Suggestions include the ability to pre-pay for their Boat, Terminal and Environmental Fees at the same time.  Ideally a ticket, perhaps with a bar code, would be issued to the guest, who would scan this at the Port.  Currently, no such system exists in the World, so one would need to be built, then beta-tested etc.

What hasn’t been discussed for either idea, to our knowledge, is what the authorities will do to any guests overstaying. Will the PNP, or Boracay Tourist Police, visit them at their hotel and escort them from the island if they overstay?

Other concerns not discussed and agreed is how friends or family, who have been invited to stay at a Boracanyons private home, can access the island.  Or people who have rented accommodation via Airbnb for a longer stay.

Residents are disheartened to hear that yet another form of ID is being considered for them as well.  Even though the majority already hold a Barangay ID.   Residents are still required to bring several other ID’s with them, as well as their Barangay ID, if they leave and wish to re-enter the island.

Inside Boracay: Week 23 September 28th Environment Department declares Boracay’s water safe and clean

Environment Secretary, Roy Cimatu, advised that coliform levels off White Beach and off the east side of the island are now within safe figures; being below the required 400mpn (Most Probable Number) per 100 millimeters maximum tolerable level.

The East Side of Boracay has experienced significant problems in the past, and it was the source of the “Cesspool” label.   Islanders, and the KiteBoarding community had been campaigning for a full clean up for well over a decade.

Whilst Boracay opens again on 26th October a “dry run” will take place from the 15th October, restricted to ‘local’ tourists, to allow the Water Companies and TIEZA to check the performance of the new systems put in place since the closure [1.]

Inside Boracay: Week 23 – September 28th Group pushes for continued Government Aid after Re-opening

We Are Boracay; a group representing displaced Boracay workers, has called for ongoing Government Aid and financial assistance after Phase 1 of Reopening.

The group predominantly represents vendors, tricycle drivers, masseuses, photographers, and other informal sector workers; people who are less likely to be able to return to their positions on the island.  They have also called for assistance for those whose homes have been demolished, because they were erected on Forest Land or Wetland.

Spokesperson Olive Abanera stated “For the past five months, we have been driven to worsening poverty forcing many of us to leave the island. We haven’t heard of a comprehensive plan for most of the residents who have been left jobless or without sources of livelihood”

Whilst DSWD and DOLE have both been in charge of issuing a number of Aid and Support Programs, many residents are still waiting on the release of the Financial Aid they applied for back at the start of the closure period.  Abanera pointed out that many people will remain without employment due to the staggered re-opening and loss of positions [2.]

Representatives of the Malay Boracay Vendors, Peddlers, Masseurs, Manicurist Association (MABOVEN), have also pleaded for some dialogue with the Re-opening decision-makers.  The group has 300 members who make their living on and around Boracay’s beaches.   With the proposals to ban souvenir stalls, beach beds, tables and chairs from the beachfront, many are worried about their future, and how they will support their families [3.].  The group has been operating for 28 years and state they have complied with regulations.  They’ve added that they will be happy to submit to additional regulations, as long as they are able to continue with their livelihoods.

Inside Boracay: Week 23 – September 28th Does DENR have plans to reduce resorts on Boracay to just 249 Resorts?

According to the Carry Capacity Study, commissioned by the DENR, Boracay can only support 249 Resorts.  Currently, the island hosts around 430 Resorts, with approximately 15,000 rooms.

However, DENR Undersecretary Sherwin Rigor admitted that this finding is only based on the islands current sewage treatment and resources capacity; it does not consider the island’s future capacity, once the Sewage Treatment Project, roads and electricity rewiring is complete.   Neither does it consider how this may change, as existing hotels build their own STP’s.  Or the number of rooms and resorts already lost to date, to demolition for road widening or the new 25+5 coastal easement.

“We will recompute the numbers and determine the environmental availability to accept more. That is why we will have biodiversity checks and environmental checks. For now, [we will strictly enforce] the 19,000-tourists per day carrying capacity.”   DENR Undersecretary Sherwin Rigor  [4.]

Despite this, Rigor appeared on ANC Television stating that the number of rooms on Boracay should be reduced from approximately 15,000 to just 6,000.

Whilst a Carry Capacity Cap will be set at 19,000 tourists a day, the DENR Undersecretary, Sherwin Rigor suggested that hotels will have to consider how they manage their unused rooms. He suggests perhaps using them for other business purposes such as “health and wellness shops” or knocking two to three rooms in to one to create a spacious suite.

Valuable suggestions. But reducing rooms or visitors staying in hotel or resort, could render many of them as financially nonviable.

The Carry Capacity Study has resulted in a decision that no new hotels will be allowed to be built on the island.  Although, those that are currently under construction will be allowed to continue.

Inside Boracay: Week 23 Consultation – Will they ever learn the meaning of Consultation?

Throughout discussions about the possible Island Closure, through 5 months of actual closure and all the way to Island Re-opening discussions now, the practice of making decisions and then “Consulting” with Shareholders only after releasing the decision details to the national media, continues.

  1.  That is not Consultation.  ‘Consultation is the process of discussing something with someone in order to get their advice or opinion about it (Cambridge English Dictionary)’.  (It is not making decisions and then telling people about it, after it’s already been released to the media, causing confusion and anger).
  2. If the various departments, charged with the ‘Rehabilitation’, actually spoke to Stakeholders before releasing their decisions and plans to the National Media, they wouldn’t have to spend quite so much time back tracking on their decisions and creating an air of distrust and frustration.

A prime example occurred this week at the latest ‘Stakeholder Open Forum’ meetings, and resulted in it being shared widely across Boracay Facebook Groups:-

Inside Boracay: Week 23

Now, in fairness, the reason Kite Surfing/Boarding had been listed as a banned Watersport, is because the ‘Government Official’ was confusing it with Para-Sailing, which is powered by Speedboat.  As opposed to wind-powered, environmentally-friendly kites.

However, IF they had spoken to stakeholders before preparing their powerpoint slides ahead of the meeting, or listing the various watersports they planned to ban, they could have been saved public embarrassment.   The same goes for the issue of banning Paraws; the most environmentally-friendly water activity on Boracay – being wind or paddle powered.   The argument for banning Paraws is because they use anchors.  Except most Paraws are docked off the mainland, not Boracay.  The pick-up and drop-off areas on White Beach are sand not coral.  And those that are kept off Boracay’s coast, ‘anchor’ to permanent bouys.

As it is Watersports and diving will be suspended whilst a Bio-diversity Assessment is carried out and Watersport Guideline Regulations are agreed.

Inside Boracay: Week 23 – September 29th Plans to create a Boracay Island Development Authority

Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources have advised that they will be pushing for the creation of the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA). This will be a special body aimed at managing the island and enforcing policies, and ordinance. The Committee plans to file a bill before the next election.

However, there is already a separate and pending Senate Bill, filed by Senator Franklin Drilon, for the creation of a body to manage the island.

One thing appears to be clear. With the closure and reopening of Boracay, the island seems to have gained an awful lot of new groups and committee’s, with similar agendas and similar abbreviations. Things could get interesting if we’re left with lots of groups and meetings trying to wrest control and a foothold in decision-making. Sometimes the answer isn’t a new committee!

Inside Boracay: Week 23 – October 1st DENR advise on Dry Run Opening

Secretary Cimatu, DENR, has advised that 1,000 rooms will be available each day, to local tourists, during the Dry Run of 15-25th October. The intention is to have 5,000 rooms available from the 26th October onwards.

According to the Business Mirror, Cimatu has said that certain hotels will each have an allocation of 200 tourists during the Dry Run period [5.]

In the same article, but separate interview, the paper notes that DILG Officer in Charge, Eduardo M. Año had insinuated that a “large Chain of beachfront resorts” had not even filed their papers for reopening yet and were attempting to circumnavigate this by using political connections.  

“They’re not on our list [of compliant establishments]. They cannot operate, if they are not compliant”

Inside Boracay: Week 23 – October 3 Entry Policy for Dry Run Period is Set

Niven Maquirang, Aklan Jetty Port Manager has advised on the Entry/Exit Policy for the Dry Run Period.   The Dry Run refers to October 15-25, when the island will be open to local tourists from Aklan.

One Entry Point will be in place for everyone; the reclamation area in Caticlan.  They will need to walk to the pier to board a boat to Boracay.  Signs will be erected to advise which boat to board for which drop-off zone.  Residents will be dropped at Cagban Port.  Workers will be dropped at Manoc Manoc Port.   Tourists will be dropped and picked up from three points: Boracay Terraces Resort Station 1, Hennan Regency Station 2 and Casa Pilar Station 3.

Docking time at all three White Beach points will run from 6 am to 6 pm only.  Those with later arrivals or departures should coordinate with the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Caticlan Jetty Port Administration.  Hotel Welcome Centers will remain closed during this period.

Inside Boracay: Week 23 – October 3 Boarding Houses to be identified in Caticlan

Whilst there is nothing to say the change is imminent, Barangay Captains on the mainland are already starting to assess the capacity of their Boarding Houses, to accommodate Boracay Staff.  Caticlan Barangay, which is the closest to the entry point, has already conducted a meeting, attended by over 100 Boarding House Owners.  The purpose was to identify the number of Boarding Houses and their capacity.

The Boracay InterAgency Task Force for Rehabilitation has already advised of their intention to remove all Boarding and Staff Housing from Boracay. The Carry Capacity Study for Boracay points to the island having too many people living and working on it.  The proposal is to relocate at least 15,000 workers to the mainland.

What remains unclear is how their commute will be managed on a day to day basis. In a way that does on impact on tourists arriving or departing, the workers abilities to arrive at work on time and that it takes in to consideration a fall-back plan for getting staff on to the island when the port is closed due to poor sea conditions.

Inside Boracay: Week 23 – October 3 Coral Planting and Ocean-bed Clean-up

The Boracay Foundation Incorporated (BFI), in partnership with the Boracay Business Administration of Scuba Shops (BBASS) and LGU Malay undertook 2 Dives this week.

24 Boracay Divers volunteered their time to ‘transplant’ 185 coral fragments and collect 21 sacks of waste, which were mostly bottles.

  • BFI Clean Up 1
  • Inside Boracay: Week 2
  • Inside Boracay: Week 23
  • Inside Boracay: Week 23

Participants included LGU Menro, Free willy, Easy Dive Boracay, White Beach Divers, Go Diving, Sea World, LapuLapu, Victory Divers, Big Blue, Boracay D5 Diving, Eclipse Dive Center, Paradise Dive Center, Calypso Diving, Dive Gurus and The Philippine Coast Guard.

The following Boracay Businesses; Natalias Kusina, Isla Store, Fly Boutique D’mall and Sandals Boracay generously provided lunch to the volunteer divers.

Inside Boracay: Week 23 – October 3  Departments advise they have not received any money for the rehabilitation of Boracay

Environment Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo Jr told the Public Hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources, that the P1.3Billion fund assigned for the rehabilitation of Boracay has still not be released.

The fund was expected to be released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), who Adobo has now claimed, is telling the various agencies that they already have sufficient funds to cover the rehabilitation programs.

The funds were to cover financial and social support for residents (approximately half of the budget), removal of illegal structures, infrastructure projects and the clean-up of Boracay waters.

Whilst Islanders and business owners can appreciate the stress of balancing funds when a budget has not been released, at least one resident is tempted to say “Suck it up” – which are the words used towards us, when we asked how the islanders, its businesses and employees were supposed to survive for 6 months! [6.]

Inside Boracay: Week 23 A Week in Pictures

Article Sources:

  1. DENR: Waters on Boracay island now safe and clean – CNN
  2. Displaced Boracay workers decry lack of plan to bring back jobs, livelihood – Inquirer.Net
  3. Group urges ‘proper relocation’ for beachfront activities – Boracay Informer
  4. Boracay can accommodate only 249 resorts; DENR – Business Mirror
  5. Task Force Boracay warns resorts: Don’t cheat on compliance – Business Mirror
  6. P1.3B for Boracay not released – Inquirer.Net

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Written by My Ranggo

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