Inside Boracay: Week 13
3 months in to the 6 month closure period
Inside Boracay: Week 13 includes the 3 month anniversary of the Island’s closure and, we hope, the half-way mark towards re-opening. Getting around the island is chaos at best, with roads being shut off in sections or impassable; full of rubble and stagnating water.
Other news and events in Week 13 & 14:-
- National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) files charges against 4 Companies and various officials for violating environmental laws. 2 of the Companies having previously been the objects of protest rallies by Boracay Islanders and Residents
- State Of the Nation Address; President Duterte levies neglect of Boracay at the doors of the Government.
- Sen Nancy Binay argues Government should foot the costs for rescinding and reissuing ECC’s and Business permits process
- Slow down in progress on road widening, as everyone waits for AKELCO to bring in replacement poles
- Galaxy Entertainment state that they’re still on track to open Boracay Casino. DOT reiterates there will be no Casino’s on Boracay
- DOT Accreditation to be mandatory for all Hospitality establishments
- Link to article announcing Cruise Ship Visits to Boracay, from opening date, vanish from DOT facebook page after Islanders and Stakeholders comment negatively about the news
- One Stop Shop for permits & certificates applications towards ‘Compliance’ opens
Inside Boracay: Week 13 – 19th July NBI Files Charges against Businesses and Officials
At the start of Week 13 the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) filed charges against 6 Businesses operating on Boracay, for violating Environmental Laws. The six companies face charges of Graft, Violations of the Local Government Code and Violations of the Forestry and Fisheries code.
In June/July 2015, Islanders held several weekly candlelight vigils, in front of Willy’s Rock, Station 1 White Beach to try to gain the attention of the media, LGU and local DENR Offices to suspected violations by both Boracay West Cove and Seven Seas Boracay Properties Inc. The vigils were organised as Islanders feared that no active response was forthcoming, from local Officials, in response to validated photos shared on Social Media, and with them.
The photos shared showed building violations, and infractions, to protected Forest Lands at Station 1, and Puka Beach respectively. Both companies are now facing charges by the NBI, along with the Mount Luho located Denichi Boracay Corporation and Boracay Tanawin Properties, as well as Yooringa Corp and Correos Internacionale Inc.
Additional charges may yet be filed against Boracay Mayors, John Yap and current Mayor Ceciron Cawaling, who also served as Mayor prior to Yaps term, and other Officials in relation to the above charges. Both Mayor and ex-Mayor are currently facing Graft Complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman, filed by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Further photos of the first candle light vigil can be found on Jack Jarilla’s Facebook Photo Album: A Vigil for Boracay Island
Inside Boracay: Week 13 – 23rd July State Of Nation Address (SONA)
It’s fair to say that Boracay Residents and Islanders were pretty stunned by the Presidents inclusion of Boracay, in his State of the Nation Address. Not because it was included in the Address, as the closure of Boracay has been a significant event for the Nation. But more that the President laid responsibility for the islands neglect, at the doors of the Government, and even himself:-
“Boracay Island, widely regarded as one of our country’s treasures and admired worldwide for its natural beauty, has sadly become the representation of the government’s negligence, including mine. I could not allow this decay to continue; decisive action has long been overdue. Recognizing that we are mere stewards of our natural resources, and I said enough is enough.
We intend to restore its environmental integrity, alongside measures to alleviate those whose livelihood were momentarily affected. Environmental protection and ensuring the health of our people cannot be overemphasized; thus, our actions in Boracay mark the beginning of a new national effort.”
Islanders have been angry, since the first discussions about a possible closure, at their unfair portrayal as ‘Greedy Businesses’ in mainstream media. Especially, when many have been advocating for its protection and trying to publicise what was going on, and being allowed to happen on the island.
Below is just another example of residents trying to push local officers to address areas of neglect on the island; Freida Dario-Santiago, on behalf of Balabag Residents wrote to Boracay’s then Mayor back in July 2011, referring to drainage problems that had already been ongoing for 3 years. Problems which, in fact, continued to worsen and are only now being dealt with as part of the rehabilitation.
Is it fair for the President to take blame himself for Boracay’s neglect when he’s only been in position for 2 years? Since learning of Boracay’s most pressing concern; sewage being discharged untreated on to Bulabog Beach, the Presidents reaction was pretty much immediate and not just for Boracay; other rising tourist destinations have since faced similar investigations and actions, either due to sewage concerns, or coast or road encroachment – El Nido and Coron being two such destinations.
People may complain at the speed of the closure, at the lack of an agreed Action Plan and the playing of ‘catch up’ for things like issuing Governmental financial aid to Islanders, which is impacting on the poorest and most vulnerable. Or that the closure could have been handled better. But people also recognise that Boracay needed to close, so she could be rehabilitated and saved. We have to consider, had President Duterte not taken a stand for Boracay…. then who would?!
Inside Boracay: Week 13 – 25th July 2018 DOT re-adopts It’s More Fun in the Philippines
Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary, Berna Romulo-Puyat, advised that she’s been contacted by a number of top Ad Agencies wanting to assist the Department with promoting the re-opening of Boracay. During the same session Romolo-Puyat noted that the successful campaign It’s More Fun in the Philippines, will be reinstated. This tagline may have been mis-used by netizens, to explain away any frustrations, problems, or mistakes experienced in the country. But outside of the Philippines it is quite possibly one of the most successful DOT campaigns ever staged.
Musical Artists have also offered their services free of charge, to create new jingles to go with the relaunched Campaign. Such is the good-will and buy-in that Romulo-Puyat’s professional reputation attracts.
The previous offices and roles undertaken by the new DOT Sec. Romulo-Puyat have included promotion of Agricultural Tourism and Eco-Tourism. She believes that the abrupt closure of Boracay has since resulted in a forced awakening in the country of the need to embrace Sustainability in Tourism practices: “Before it was just a concept; nobody could actually figure out what could do it. But now because of what happened to Boracay, people are policing themselves, the private sector have been policing themselves … we will not be afraid to close them down if they do not follow”. Read More here
Boracay Stakeholders and islanders still respectfully request active involvement and consultation, with regards to any promotional plans for the island. Boracay has led the way in Tourism for decades, promoting and marketing the island long before there were any official assistance with this; there is a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills among Boracay Stakeholders and Islanders, waiting to be shared.
Inside Boracay: Week 13 – 26 July ECC’s Revoked for all Boracay Businesses.
The Philippine Star reported that Senator Nancy Binay, Senate Committee on Tourism Chairperson, stated whilst it may be necessary to revoke all existing ECC’s on Boracay, in the interests of a “Clean Slate”, it should not be an added expense for businesses who hold current ECC’s & Permits. Binay suggests that the re-application costs should be funded by the Government, once a unified checklist has been agreed, which is transparent and limits opportunity for corruption.
The Business Mirror, in their article on July 25, also reported that the Undersecretary for Operations, Department for Interior and Local Government (DILG), Epimaco V. Densing III had stated “we were not consulted” prior to the DENR’s announcement about the cancellation of all ECC’s.
It remains concerning that 3 months in to the closure of Boracay, there is still no Action Plan, the Carrying Capacity Assessment is still not ready and Departments, vital to fixing the problems and opening the island by 26th October, appear to be continuing a trend of not communicating or liaising with each other.
Carrying Capacity Assessment – 26th July Update
DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Region 6 Director, Jim Sampulna, advised that the Carrying Capacity Assessment will be completed and announced in August 2018. He went on to advise that the delay to the Assessment report was due to a need for further research and studies.
In 2008 the daily carrying capacity was set at 35,000 – 60,000 people. It is safe to say arrival figures, year on year, have well and truly smoked these figures since! That same study reported that there were already 32,500 Residents living on the island in 2008.
Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 6 Director Helen Catalbas advised that it was important to wait for a carrying capacity to be set, to assist with preparations for the reopening of the island and controlling tourist arrivals; the Carrying Capacity will inform the number of vehicles allowed on the island, how many flights should operate daily in to Kalibo and Caticlan airports and the number of hotel rooms needed on the island.
Catalbas stated: “If we do not put a cut to the number of visitors who will enter Boracay, as prescribed by the soon to be released carrying capacity study, then we might end up getting tourists that have no rooms to stay.”
Although currently the island has 430 Hotel, Resort and Backpacker establishments, with a total room capacity of 14,697. DOT 2017 data shows that between 5,000-10,000 tourists a day stayed on the island. Whilst this might suggest that there are more than enough rooms to accommodate tourists, the figures offered are a Mean Average of the 2,001,974 tourist arrivals to the island, across the 12 months, and does not take in to account heightened arrival figures during the Super Peak Dates such as Labor Weekend, Holy Week, Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year. These are dates where, realistically, tourists could arrive and find there is no accommodation left, where it hasn’t been pre-booked.
Inside Boracay: Week 14
Inside Boracay: Week 14 – 27th July DOLE Region 6 release updates on the release of BEEP AMP
DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) Region 6 Office release updates to BEEP AMP (Boracay Emergency Employment Program – Adjustment Measures Program) on their Facebook Page. The updates come in response to feedback and complaints from Boracay Residents who are already struggling through the closure, and found the application requirements hindered their ability to secure desperately needed financial assistance.
“We read your comments, questions and concerns. In response, we compiled and answered the most common questions you ask about BEEP AMP. Please take time to read the advisory and its attachment. Help us spread the right information. Rest assured that the men and women of DOLE Region 6 are working hard to ensure that our program beneficiaries receive their financial assistance.”
Inside Boracay:: Week 14 27th July 2018 Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (partners to Galaxy Entertainment) state they’re on track to open their Boracay Casino
Despite President Duterte’s announcements that there will be no new Casino’s on Boracay, Katrina Nepomuceno Vice President for Legal Affairs at Leisure and Resorts World Corp. (LRWC) has stated “The plan has not been delayed by the closure of the island”. According to GMA News Online’s article her statement was made at Leisure and Resorts World Corp’s Annual Stakeholders’ Meeting in Pasay City.
No date has been set by Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group or LRWC, Galaxy’s local partner, for construction to start. But Nepomuceno explained that the company continues to work with government agencies on the requirements needed before they can start. Nepomuceno reportedly stated that LRWC is confident that the project will push through and they will meet the Casino Resorts opening target date of 2021, despite the Presidents repeated comment that there would be no Casino Resort built on Boracay.
On July 29th DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, reiterated the Presidents earlier announcements that there will be no Casino’s on Boracay. “The President recently reiterated to the DOT his earlier position against the entry of casino operations in Boracay… This is in line with the desire of the DOT and tourism stakeholders in Boracay to further develop the island as a sustainable and family-oriented destination…. I confirmed it with the President (on the 27th July), and his stand is, ‘there would be no casinos in Boracay.’ The President’s stand has not changed.” Read a fuller article here from the Business Mirror
Inside Boracay: Week 14 – 27th July DOT Accreditation required for hotels and resorts to re-open
Department of Tourism, Region 6 Director, Atty. Helen Catalbas advised that DOT Accreditation will be available to Boracay establishments from 16th August 2018. In addition, Catalbas confirmed that DOT Accreditation will be the last requirement that an establishment needs in place before they will be allowed to open and accept guests.
“No DENR, DILG and LGU compliance, no DOT accreditation. The DOT is the last touch prior to the opening …No DOT accreditation, no opening of establishments for tourism activities” Boracay Informer reported Catalbas as saying
In all, and in no particular order, establishments are required to have the following in place:- Mayor’s Permit, Barangay Clearance, PAG-IBIG (Clearance Certificate), Social Security System (certificate of SSS coverage and compliance), PhilHealth (Certificate of Good Payment Standing), Bureau of Internal Revenue annual registration, Garbage Fee, Sanitary Permit, (if applicable) Real Property Tax Clearance, Occupancy Permit, Building Permit, Public Employment Service Office (PESO) Certification, Sewerage Treatment Plant or Sewer Line Connections, Desludging Certificate, Certifications from the Security Exchange Commission, Co-operative Development Authority, and the Department of Trade and Industry, ECC, Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC), Discharge Permit, Permit to Operate, Fire Safety Evaluation Clearance, Fire Safety Inspection Certificate, and BFP Occupancy Permit.
In June 2017, the Business Mirror cited that not even 50% of Tourism Establishments across the whole of the Philippines, had applied for or held DOT Accreditation, yet still held Business Permits to operate.
One Netizen commenting on a Department of Tourism – Philippines Facebook Post (above) about the Secretary’s plans to visit little-known tourism sites in the Philippines, commented “CHECK the process and requirements of DOT accreditation must also be revisited. too many fantastic resorts and tourism businesses but not DOT accredited because they are just small businesses and do not have a show money, a certain amount in the bank as one of the requirements. and the fee, masyadong mahal”.
Boracay Island Water Co. (BIWC), has raised concerns over DENR’s Memorandum Circular No. 2018-06, covering the decommissioning of the sewer line running along White Beach, from Station 1- 3. The Mandate also requires any establishment, with 50+ rooms to have their own Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) in place. Hotels with fewer rooms, as well as beachfront bars and restaurants are required to share an STP.
Joseph Michael Santos, BIWC General Manager feels it is unlikely that the beachfront resorts will be able to have STP’s in place so quickly and is asking Secretary Cimatu to allow the, currently decommissioned, TIEZA sewer line to remain open to 23 large establishments, and 607 smaller ones.
Santos has stated that it will take more then a year to connect all of Boracay’s establishments to BIWC’s sewerage system; only 61 percent of the island can currently be connected. Full coverage is expected to be achieved in 2022, once old pipes have been replaced and new sections of piping laid.
Inside Boracay: Week 14 – 27th July The Department of Public Works and Highways inspect the Circumferential Road, Bulabog
DPWH Secretary, Mark Villar, announces that Boracay’s new roads will be built to last and will be at least 28cm’s thick. Whilst work appears to have slowed down in the last 4 weeks, due to poor weather and a delay in the release of the funds, Villar also stated that the project is still on target for completion.
Secretary Roy Cimatu, Department of Environment and Resources (DENR) visited various sites of the road project, ahead of a Taskforce Meeting on the island. Rumors that momentum of the Road Projects has been furthered delayed by Akelco not yet having replacement electricity poles on the island to complete the set-back part of the project, have not been confirmed. Photo courtesy of Boracay Informer.
Inside Boracay: Week 14 – July 27th Boracay Stakeholders denied entry to 3rd Boracay Inter-Agency Taskforce Meeting
It’s disappointing to learn that the Boracay Stakeholder representatives, who usually attend the Boracay Inter-Agency Taskforce Meetings (BIATF), were denied entry to the 3rd meeting, held on 27th July 2018 at Casa Pilar, Boracay. Entrance was denied, even as mere spectators, on the basis that “Sensitive Issues” were on the Agenda for discussion.
One representative questioned the Transparency of the Rehabilitation of Boracay if Stakeholders are kept in the dark: “They said after Their meeting they Will Call for separate stakeholders meeting.. sa Awa ng Diyos.. natapos na Sunday na.. nakauwi na sila ng Manila… that promise Never materialize“
Inside Boracay: Week 14 – July 28 Compliant or Not Compliant; Boracay Inspection Committee Issue confusing tarps to Boracay Businesses.
A number of tarpaulins started to appear on Boracay establishments and businesses on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th July. This has caused confusion among businesses, who are aware that ECC’s have been revoked for all businesses, thereby making them Non-Compliant.
Some businesses celebrated prematurely, believing that this meant they had been given notification of being Compliant and the go ahead to apply for DOT Accreditation as their final stage to re-opening.
Boracay Inspection Committee, which is made up of the LGU, Fire Service, DILG and various other offices, visited businesses requesting to see their papers. Tarps were issued to display for those whose papers were in order however, it is believed that checks did not include viewing papers or permits that would be required to be in place by DENR. Other businesses, where no-one was on hand to show papers were issued with a warning notice tarp. It is not clear if Boracay Inspection Committee have been asked to halt this process for now.
Inside Boracay: Week 14 – July 29 and the vanishing Facebook link to an article stating Cruise Ships are lined up to visit Boracay
This writer notes that on the 28th July the Department of Tourism posted a link, to an article by Panay News, on their facebook page. The link was ‘celebrating’ the news that there are five to eight cruise ship visits to Boracay already lined up, starting with arrivals from the opening date of 26th October.
Many Stakeholders and Islanders expressed their surprise at this announcement from DOT Region 6 Director Helen Catalbas, especially as DOT Secretary, Berna Romulo-Puyat has shown her commitment to ensuring that locals have a say in how their destination is marketed and promoted and how/what type of tourism is encouraged. One islander had commented on this, since removed DOT post “Why rehabilitate the island, if you’re just going to allow one of the worst types of polluters back in“.
The Cruise Ship deals have remained controversial from their introduction. Islanders were unhappy that they were not consulted ahead of the first talks, that there has been no transparency regarding the financial deals forged with the Cruise Liners for a Boracay stop, and that there appeared to be no clear planning or resource for Cruise Guests arrivals and departures; to avoid impacting on tourists, staff and residents also needing to access or exit Boracay for work, holidays or flights.
Visits also result in snarled up roads, a crowded White Beach and added trash everywhere. For Islanders, even the businesses on the Island that may benefit from such visits, Cruise Ship Day is not a pleasant experience and there’s an almost audible and collective sigh of relief when the ship leaves Boracay water!
Inside Boracay: Week 14 – 31st July One Stop Shop is implemented
Following the suggestion by a number of Stakeholders at a Boracay Inter-Agency Taskforce meeting, a One Stop Shop initiative has finally been launched. Located at Casa Pilar, Station 3, businesses can now visit the desks for matters pertaining to the LGU, EMB, DOT, BFP, ECC and PTO applications, among others. Those whose Businesses are already compliant can visit this One Stop Shop to secure clearances from DENR, DILG and LGU-Malay, and can then apply for their DOT Accreditation, which will enable them to start to accept bookings for the re-opening. The One Stop Shop is open Monday to Friday from 8am-5pm, and on Saturday from 8am-12:00noon.
As of 6th August the One Stop Shop has been relocated to Citimall, and can be found on the 2nd floor, in the Convention Hall. With the closure of the main road, obstruction of the beach path for much of White Beach, it was felt to be a more suitable location
Inside Boracay: Week’s 13 & 14 in Photo’s