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Inside Boracay: Opening Week
(cover photo by islander Jack Jarilla)

Inside Boracay: Opening Week

Boracay Opening Week, finally the island is open to tourists.  It has felt like both the longest 6 months, and also a case of ‘it’s October 26th Already!’   This is just the start for Boracay, after the island was called a ‘Cesspool’ by the Philippine President back in January 2018.  The rehabilitation will not complete until December 2019.  In the meantime the DOT Secretary, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, urges everyone to “Manage their expectations”.

This was the week that saw:-

  • Terminal ID idea cancelled
  • Environmental Marshals mooted by CAB
  • Other Philippine tourism destinations told to ‘get your house in order’
  • Paraws suspended, but not banned, for 2 weeks
  • Access Requirements for Friends and Family Visiting islanders
  • Largest Chain of Hotels on Island accused of faking ECC
  • All Casino Licenses on Boracay cancelled
  • New Kalibo Port and Ferry expected to launch in December
  • Who will manage the ‘New’ Boracay?
  • Boracay Artist wins two prestigious Awards and is accepted on to a PhD Program
  • Boracay Mayor suspended from duty, 24 hours prior to the islands opening
  • Boracay Opens!!

Inside Boracay: Opening Week –  October 17th Terminal ID pass for workers and residents won’t be implemented by Caticlan Jetty Port

The Jetty Port Management advised that we will no longer implement the terminal identification card or ID scheme proposed for workers and residents of Boracay.

Jean Pontero, of Caticlan Jetty Port, advised workers would only need to show the company issued ID, or any government ID. Residents will just need to present their Barangay ID or Government ID, with their Boracay address on it.

A number of workers, returning to Boracay, have been caught out this last week with an additional payment for their Peso ID, before they can enter the island. The cost for this, if the employee has not already been registered by their employers is 200PHP.   The Peso ID is a long-standing requirement for Business Employees but has not been actively implemented until closure brought it to the forefront again.   Company’s should visit the LGU Malay Peso Office, to register their employees.  Employees should request a copy of their Peso Certificate or ID, from their employers, if they do not already have them with them.

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – October 17th Compliant Associations of Boracay propose measures to deal with littering on Boracay.

The Compliant Associations of Boracay have proposed to DENR the idea of Environmental Marshals; with authority to undertake Citizens Arrests against Tourists who litter.

“We call on the people of Boracay to be vigilant on the war on trash”. Tourism Undersecretary, Arturo Boncato advised [1.]

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – October 19th Other Philippine Destinations warned to ‘get their houses in order’

DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat confirmed that she has sent “Love Letters” to five other tourism destinations in the Philippines as a ‘gentle reminder to follow Environmental Laws’.

The five destinations were: El Nido Palawan, Panglao Bohol, Oslob Cebu, La Union and Baguio City and were mostly identified with regards to compliance on coastal easement. Puyat noted that many have already started to address this issue but should look to comply with all other laws to avoid shutdown.

“Actually, wherever I go, they always ask me, who’s next? And I always say: Why wait!” DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat [2.]

It’s probably safe to say that Boracay Islanders would agree that other destinations should look to the Boracay Closure experience as a warning, and start addressing the environmental issues of Coast and Road easement, Forest Land, Wet Land, and adequate, modern sewage treatment.

“Boracay’s closure and rehabilitation should be seen as a warning, and a call to action, rather than a blue print for future destination rehabilitation’s. This closure process has been a learning curve for those tasked with executing it, and hellish for those living through it. I don’t think anyone on Boracay would want to see residents of any other destinations go through what we have. Even though there were many people who seemed to express smug satisfaction and heartless comments at Boracay’s closure.” Comments from one resident, who wished to remain anonymous.

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 19th October DENR states that there will be no ban on Paraws

In our Inside Boracay: Week 25 article we wrote about the suspension of all water sports whilst a Marine Biodiversity Study is undertaken.   There were rumblings that within this, a number of hotels had suggested a ban on Paraws, or a limit on the number of them.

DENR Spokesperson Benny Antiporda, advised on 19th October that Paraw, sail boats and island hopping activities will not be banned.  These activities will be temporarily suspended only, ahead of the Marine Biodiversity Study and are expected to be operating again, two weeks after the opening on 26th October.  He advised that all water sports will be regulated [3.].

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – October 20th Applications for Visits from Friends or Family available at Cagban Jetty Port

Cagban Jetty Port have released the application forms for islanders to request clearance for friends or relatives to visit them.

Inside Boracay: Entry Form for people staying with Residents
Application Form for visiting friends and family

The forms require the name of the resident (Sponsor) along with their address and contact number. A photocopy of their Barangay ID should also be provided.

Sponsors should provide the name, number and arrival and departure dates of the friend/relative. Once these have been completed and signed they will be stamped, and copies can be provided to the relative/friend. Sponsors should check at the Jetty Port, if they are required to provide any supporting papers such as government ID confirming their Boracay address.

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 20th October Residents claims of eviction with no-where to move to.

The Inquirer [4.] published an article which included interviews with Boracay residents who claim that they were evicted without having any alternative accommodation.  Previously residents living in forest land or on wetlands had been told that they would not be evicted without a relocation site first having been identified for them.

The Inquirer quoted one resident, Mary Ann Casidsid as saying:

“We did not want to remain there but I just wanted another day so we could transfer our things”

Mrs Casidsid stated that the team began demolishing her home, even with her four young children inside. The Inquirer went on to report that another resident, living close to Wetland 4 (Lake Town in front of D’Mall) said that up to 75 families had seen their homes ejected or torn down.

Inside Boracay: Opening of Wetland 4 Boracay
Wetland 4 will be rehabilitated and managed by the Aboitiz Group

Wetland 4 has been taken on by The Aboitiz Group.  They will rehabilitate the area and it has been suggested that some vendors, previously hawking White Beach, will be given permits to have a stall along the surrounding promenade.

Executive Assistant Rowen Aguirre, Malay Municipal Government, was stated as saying that the relocation sites identified in Aklan province were not pursued due to geohazard concerns, and opposition from local landowners.

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 20th October Chain of Beach Front Hotels fights to clear its name and open.

This last week of closure has been full of stories about the fight by one ‘Chain of Beach Front Hotels’ to clear their name of allegations made regarding a falsified Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC).  The ECC is the last stage of the DILG and DENR verification process, prior to hotels applying to the DOT for Accreditation, so that they can open and accept bookings.

Certainly the media have covered, for several weeks, comments by Spokesmen from both DILG and DENR, who have stated that the ‘chain of beach front hotels’ was yet to submit any papers to them for compliance purposes, but appeared to be preparing to open.

During these last weeks of closure Rappler actually published the name of the Chain; The Henann Group and within days DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda stated that a falsified ECC had been identified.  The Henann Group was quick to refute the allegation, ahead of the investigation.  Antiporda advised that the Henann Group will face “appropriate charges” if the papers are found to be falsified.

Isabel Garcia-Lee, Assistant Vice President for Sales in Boracay, issued a statement, which netizens quickly pounced on, as near identical to a statement issued by footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, in response to rape allegations.

Inside Boracay: Henann Group denies fraud allegation
Photo Credit: Chuckie Dreyfus

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – October 21st DOT Secretary proposes Airlines check Hotel Bookings at Flight Check-in

CNN reports that DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat is proposing that Airlines also play their part in managing Boracay’s Carry Capacity, by checking their passengers have a Confirmed Booking, at a Compliant Hotel, before allowing them to check in.

Currently, this is a proposal only and not a confirmed policy.  Again, any such measures will need to take in to account the Right To Travel; Section 6, Article III, 1987 Philippine Constitution [5.]

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – Boracay Taskforce Requests Cancellation of Casino Licenses on Boracay

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) received a letter, requesting the cancellation of all gaming licenses issued to Boracay Hotels and Casino’s, from the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF).

The Task Force letter is clear that all licenses should be revoked, even those that covered casino’s operating prior to the closure of April 26. The letter was signed by Secretary Roy A. Cimatu (BIATF Chairman), Interior Officer in Charge Eduardo M. Año (Vice Chairmen) and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat

The Business Mirror [7.], who broke the news, estimates that the letter may have been sent as far back as September 28. There were already 3 licenses issued for Movenpick, Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center and Paradise Garden. More resorts planned to have a casino, including the Galaxy Entertainment Group, the Savoy Hotel and Hotel Soffia.

The Business Mirror reports that Paradise Garden’s General Manager, Edwin M. Raymundo, confirmed that he has already submitted notification that the resort will not proceed with any gaming activities, as part of the resorts DOT Accreditation process.  Movenpick is apparently yet to do so (at time of writing).  The Officer in Charge at PAGCOR,  Roderick R. Consolacion, has written to Alpha Allied Holdings Ltd., which operates the casino, and ordered the company to “cease whatever remaining operations you may have in your casino in Boracay.”  Whilst Alpha Allied Holdings Ltd. does have the right to Appeal, directly to the Office of the President, the President has been clear that there will be no casinos operating on Boracay.

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 22nd October DOT Secretary proposes a move away from LGU control of tourism destinations in the Philippines.

Phil.star reports [7.] that the DOT Secretary, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat stated that the DOT will take over the management of Boracay, and other tourism destinations.

“The President has already instructed the Cabinet, after the rehabilitation, that the Department of Tourism will take over. We will be creating an executive order that it will be under the (DOT) ……….  given the lack of competence and level of corruption at the LGU level, we ought to put up our important tourist destinations under a PEZA-type authority that will manage them. The LGUs can continue collecting taxes, but must have no say on building permits or on any other function that will affect the viability of the tourist sites.”  DOT Secretary, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat

However Philstar’s article goes on to point out how such management may be difficult to mandate. Either in the face of existing  Government Codes, Proclamations and Executive Orders or because it’s been tried before.

The Local Government Code of 1991, the Presidential Proclamation 1801 (November 1978) “Declaring certain islands, coves and peninsulas in the Philippines as tourist zones under the administration and control of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA)”. As well as the 2008 Executive Order 706 “Mandating the secretary of tourism to exercise administration and control mandate of the (PTA) over Boracay Island and for other purposes.”

The PTA was the forerunner of what is now the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), the infrastructure arm of the DOT, which helps develop tourism economic zones. Some islanders may well argue that TIEZA holds as much culpability for Boracay’s woe’s as Malay’s LGU.

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 22nd October local resident electrocuted whilst working onsite

40-year old Arnold Padayao, a resident of Tulubhan, Manoc-Manoc was electrocuted whilst working on a property.   Padayao has been employed by the Provincial Engineering Office, and was working on a property located in Lake Town.

Headman, Roy Malihan, advised that the incident happened while Padayao was holding something which came in to contact with a live electrical cable. Padayao was immediately rushed to Ciriaco S. Tirol Memorial Hospital, but was then transferred to ICU at a Kalibo hospital.

Updates confirm that Padayao has had to have his arms amputated as a result of his injuries.  A friend and neighbor told YHH that Mr Padayao’s wife has only recently given birth and that she has been advised that Governor Miaflores will be footing the medical bill.  However, Padayao faces a long recovery and a need to secure some form of financial support for his family.

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 23rd October New Entry Port and Ferry for Kalibo-Boracay Arrivals

Construction continues at Barangay Pook, Kalibo, on Lucio Tan’s new Kalibo Port Terminal, which is expected to cater mostly to the Chinese and Korean airline passengers arriving at Kalibo International Airport. The port will be meters away from the airport for a seamless transition between the airport and ferries.

The P602Million Peso project will cover 120-hectare’s and the Public Private Partnership is set to have three phases; the construction of a ferry port terminal, Hotels and a business-process outsourcing terminal.

Inside Boracay: Lucio Tan's Ferries to ply Kalibo to Caticlan route
Image of a similar ferry to be launched Photo: Kalibo Ferry News Aklan PH

Images of the types of ferry, through PAL’s Mabuhay Maritime Express Transport Inc, that will be commissioned to ferry the passengers directly to Boracay have also been released.  The service is expected to be operating in December 2018 [8.].

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 23rd October Boracay Artist wins prestigious Art Residences and acceptance for a PhD

Boracay Islander, Melanie Gritzka del Villar is experiencing quite a year.  With two Aritist’s Residency Awards and acceptance on to a Phd program in the U.K.

Melanie is currently on a 2 month Southeast Asian Artist Residency at Rimbun Dahan, in Malaysia.  Melanie was one of four artists to be selected in September, and will be looking into the Spice Trade of the 16th century, of which Malaysia was a key player.

On the 18th October Melanie was accepted on to the “PhD program in Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory” at the Department of Research and Innovation at Solent University, UK.  Her PhD will be under the supervision of Dr. Nicola Foster and Dr. Atsuhide Ito. The PhD is practice-based and will focus on Melanie’s investigation in to the underbelly of Globalization. With particular focus on the cultural links between Mexico and the Philippines.  The Phd will take 6 years to complete.

(I am looking..) forward to all the explorations ahead! Hopefully my research will uncover some interesting findings, help bridge cultures and communities, and create opportunities for cross-cultural collaboration” Melanie said.

On the 23rd October Melanie announced that she is one of only two artists selected for another prestigious Artist Residency in 2019. She will be working with the local community and help uncover the effects the mining industry had on the town of Potosí. The residency will be held in collaboration with the Museo Leonora Carrington San Luis Potosí in Mexico.

You can follow Melanie’s current artist’s journey on her YouTube channel, see above video to then subscribe, or on her website

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 23rd October BEEP AMP applicants told DOLE is out of funds

Further concerns arise for Boracay employees affected by the closure.

Netizen James Loquinte advised publicly on Facebook that he had spoken to an Officer at DOLE Region 6 about the BEEP AMP (Adjustment Measures Program) fund and applications.   He states that he was advised that the funds for Financial Assistance had been oversubscribed and there remains 1,000+ applicants nationwide who have not yet received any payment.  Existing claimants who have only received up to month 4 of the assistance program are also awaiting their month 5 and 6 payments.  He has advised that Department of Labor and Employment  Region 6 has requested additional funds from the central office but this has not yet been approved.

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 23rd October Boracay Divers continue to care for Boracay’s Seas

Throughout the closure period, Boracay Dive Shops and Divers have continued to clean up the ocean beds around Boracay.   This year has seen a plague of Crown of Thorns throughout the Philippines, which can cause devastating and irreversible damage to Corals.

In addition, the divers have undertaken clean-ups collecting items such as Beer Bottles, Oil Cans, Paint Cans and brushes.  DENR have already instigated a ban on boat repairs and refurbishments on land and at sea to try to clean up Boracay’s water.  Heavy fines will be imposed on any offenders.

Photos Courtesy of Bamboo Beach Boracay

  • Boracay Divers in underwater clean-up Oct 2018
  • Boracay Divers in underwater clean-up Oct 2018
  • Boracay Divers in underwater clean-up Oct 2018
  • Boracay Divers in underwater clean-up Oct 2018

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 24th October Department Of Tourism trains 2,100 Boracay frontliners

The Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional IV Office and Boracay Compliance and Monitoring Office have undertaken free training of 2,100 front line workers; people who will work face to face with Boracay Tourists.

The seminars and training sessions were specifically aimed at Porters, Receptionists, and Front Office staff. Boatmen for Caticlan, Tabo, Cagban, and Tambisan Ports, Jetty Port Checkers, Ticket Collectors, Land Transport Drivers, Tour Guides, and Travel and Tour Operators are also undergoing training to become Ambassadors of the island.

Others trained include hotel and restaurant waiters and food servers, Massage and Spa Therapists, Manicurists, Vendors, Souvenir Gift Shop workers, and water sports activity frontliners.

The Tourist-Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection (TOPCOP) also have Awareness Training scheduled, which will be offered to 100 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel [9.]

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 25th October Boracay’s Mayor Suspended from Office one day before the island re-opens

Boracay’s Mayor Cawilig was suspended from his position of Mayor, by the Government Ombudsman, in relation to a charge against him for dereliction of duty. Cawilig has held the position of Mayor previous to his current term.

A number of Officers have also been listed and are being investigated for their perceived failure to protect Boracay from over development, among other charges.

Vice Mayor Abram Sualog signed in, after Boracay Mayor's Suspension - Inside Boracay Oct 2018
Boracay Vice Mayor Abram Sualog, takes his oath with DILG Secretary Eduardo Año. Photo Credit Radyo Todo Aklan 88.5 FM

Boracay’s Vice Mayor Abram Sualog will take up the reins, whilst also facing being on a list for a separate complaint. He advised that he feels confident that the charges being investigated will show that he was not in Office at the time. Resulting in his name being cleared [10.]

Inside Boracay: Opening Week – 25th October 2018 Capability Demonstration Exercises take place on White Beach

Boracay’s White House Resort hosted a Capability Demonstration Exercise in front of the resort, on White Beach.

  • Oct 2018 Capability Demonstration on White Beach. Photo Credit Claire Ang
  • Capability Demonstration on White Beach. Photo Credit Claire Ang
  • Capability Demonstration on White Beach. Photo Credit Claire Ang
  • Capability Demonstration on White Beach. Photo Credit Claire Ang

Whilst Boracay has not experienced any terror threats, regular exercises such as this, serve to ensure those tasked with the nations security understand the islands weak areas, and are prepared should that ever change.

The exercise was an exciting spectacle for viewers, with helicopters, speed boats and military might shown.

Inside Boracay: Opening Day 26th October 2018

An opening ceremony was conducted at Boracay’s entry port; Cagban Port. The ceremony was attended by many dignitaries and Secretaries representing DENR, DOT, DPWH etc. Miss Earth candidates were also present. See our Boracay Opening in Pictures.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu swore in the Environmental ‘Warriors’ and the Kalikasan Team.

During the Opening Ceremony  DOT Secretary, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the following [11.]:

“As we welcome a Better Boracay, the Department of Tourism urges everyone to be responsible tourists. It is the key to the preservation of this national treasure.”

“The Boracay experience is the ultimate lesson in balancing development and protecting the environment. The lessons here are not for Boracay alone, but also for the other island destinations around our beautiful country.” 

“I would also like to thank our stakeholders for their patience, support, and cooperation during the six-month rehabilitation. For our accredited establishments and those who are working hard to be 100 percent compliant with the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), and DOT thank you for your efforts to ensure the highest quality for hospitality and the environment.” 

Tourists were arriving throughout the ceremony in a steady stream, with the first flights arriving just after 7am. Workers, residents and mainlanders arrived at the separate pontoon.

There were many comments from residents online on Opening Day and below is just one of the many that were posted.

Happy new beginning Boracay! Those who stayed, no matter how hard it was to live the long and quiet 6 months, those who shifted and bent over backwards to have food on the table, those who lined up for hope, those who lost but never gave up, those who remained, those who continued to drive around for us island ‘leftovers’ during the dark and eerie silence, those who never got the promised help but decided to move on, those who left to keep their sanity and came back because Boracay is home, isn’t it.
We survived the long, mentally, physically and financially challenging 6 months and this is our new beginning.
May we not forget the lessons this this closure has taught us and may it serve its true purpose; to clean the island for all of us and for the future generations. May we keep it real and may we not forget that this experience drove out the hidden and shone a light of hope to the ones who have been real from the very start.
Great job to all the compliants and those who are still working towards compliance.
I learned that it is a continuous process. May we not stop. No pain, No Gain” – Roxanne Saltiga

Inside Boracay: Opening Day 26th October wetlands unveiled.

Two of Boracay’s new look Wetlands were unveiled on Opening Day, with DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and Aklan Province post Governor Miraflores presiding over the opening ceremonies.

Wetland 3, which is being sponsored by San Miguel, was unveiled, as was the new Boracay Wetland Conservation Park

  • Boracay Wetlands open to public as tourist attractions
  • Boracay Wetlands open to public as tourist attractions
  • Boracay Wetlands open to public as tourist attractions
  • Boracay Wetlands open to public as tourist attractions

Inside Boracay: Opening Week fun clean up event planned for 31st October

With Halloween fast approaching, and an ongoing focus on the issue of litter and looking after our environment.  The Red Cross Boracay-Malay Chapter have organised a Zumba and Beach Clean up event on 31st October.  The event will start at 6am, in front of Levantin on Bulabog Beach.  Residents, Islanders, Workers and tourists are all welcome to join.

Register for only Php299.00 and you’ll receive a ‘My Boracay Share’ Advocacy Shirt. Every sack of trash will be exchanged for a jar of candy.

Boracay Zumbie Event Oct 2018

Whilst Boracay is now open, we are only seeing Phase 1 of her rehabilitation.   The 2nd Phase is expected to complete in April 2019, and the final phase is expected to complete in December 2019.

Ongoing challenges will be the issues of ‘Forest Land’ dwellings and resorts, many of which existed before the Proclamation; Airbnb accommodation, quick release of Government funds for the rehabilitation to stay on track and supporting those employees and islanders still without income, despite the opening.

Your Hospitality Hub will continue to write articles about what is happening on Boracay.


Article Sources:

  1.  ‘War on Trash’ Boracay hotel owners propose using Citizen’s Arrest vs Litterers – News 5
  2. After Boracay, DOT warns 5 tourist destinations – CNN
  3. DENR: No ban on Paraw, Island hopping activities – Boracay Informer.
  4. Boracay reopening poses new concerns for residents, businesses – The Inquirer
  5. Radical Changes expected on Boracay’s Reopening – CNN
  6. Cancel Boracay casino licenses, TF tells Pagcor – Buisness Mirror
  7. Keeping Boracay clean – Philstar Global
  8. Lucio Tan’s ferry port terminal in Aklan to cater to Chinese, South Korean markets – Business Mirror
  9. DOT trains 2,100 frontliners for Boracay reopening
  10. Boracay back in business; mayor suspended – Philstar Global
  11. Puyat appeals to public to be ‘responsible tourists’ with Boracay reopening – Manila Bulletin
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