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Inside Boracay: Week 17 Is The Poop Hitting the Fan?!

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Inside Boracay: Week 17 Is The Poop Hitting the Fan?!

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Boracay’s Closure – Is The Poop about to Hit the Fan?!

As the pipe laying gets underway, and Bulabog’s Sewage Holding Tank is nearing completion, Inside Boracay: Week 17 takes notice of new rumblings of discontent, brewing on Boracay Island.

It feels like a backed-up sewage pipe that is about to blow!  And it has everything to do with poop!  The issue has raged for several days.  Read about it in our Article.

20 August 3rd Senate Hearing Committee of Environmental and Natural Resources,  continues to conduct its inquiry into the Boracay Closure

“You close Boracay for six months, then you will reopen with only 60 establishments?!” – Senator Cynthia Villar

The 3rd Senate Hearing of the Committee of Environmental and Natural Resources took place on Monday 20th August in Manila.  The Inquirer writes that Senator Villar, who is Chair of the Committee, repeatedly lost her patience during the Hearing.  Faced with reports from DILG and DENR, all providing different figures which didn’t tally to those provided in a preceding report, Villar is said to have exclaimed: “You are giving me all sorts of reports, so many reports so I wouldn’t understand and nothing will happen. I’m getting tired”.   

When DILG Undersecretary, Epimaco Densing III, said the aim was for at least 30% of Boracay hotels and resorts to be open on October 26, Villar had already demanded to know why there were such delays, and replied: 

“Ang baba pala ng target ninyo, kaya pala hindi kayo nagmamadali.” (“So you’ve set a very low target, that’s why you’re not in a hurry”.)

The Hearing was attended by several representatives from Boracay Stakeholder Groups; Boracay Foundation Inc (BFI) and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Boracay.  Both Nenette Aguirre-Graf and Elena Tosco Brugger, of the respective groups, asked that the One Stop Shop, currently located at Citimall Boracay, be extended for longer.  The One Stop Shop operates as a central location for all the relevant departments and offices pertaining to Permits and Certificates required by DILG, LGU, DENR and DOT.

Villar also questioned DENR’s decision that Hotels and Resorts with 6+ rooms should install an STP (Sewage Treatment Plant) or a Cluster STP with others.   You’re giving all the problem to the stakeholders, even the smaller ones, and you impose on them the responsibility of the water provider.  There should be a better model than this, especially as 80% of the establishments on Boracay have fewer than 50 rooms.  Read more: Villar Loses Cool at Senate Hearing

20th August.  Local Radio Station Manager asks DENR direct STP questions.

Jonathan Cabrera, Station Manager at Radyo Todo Aklan 88.5 FM  sent a public and open letter, via Facebook asking DENR to answer a number of questions.  Cabrera refers to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between DENR and a private Water Utility operating in Boracay.  The MOA is regarding the controversial STP’s (Sewage Treatment Plants) requirements for Beachfront Properties.  It is alleged to have been notorized in June 2018.

Johnathan Cabrera on revelation that DENR had MOA with a BTSI to supply STP's, ahead of making it a requirement for all Boracay hotels
Jonathan Cabrera’s First Facebook Post

Cabrera states that he was involved with drafting and proposing Ordinance No.307.  He advises that the MOA states that a certain Private Water Utility and DENR shall: Ensure strict implementation of Malay Municipal Ordinance No. 307 to compel all establishment with 50 rooms and above to install their own STP, and all establishments with 49 rooms and below to have their own STP or construct cluster STPs with their neighbors etc

Cabrera points out that Ordinance No.307 actually only requires establishments with 20 or more rooms to install an STP, when located more than 61 meters from an available sewer pipe.  Cabrera stresses that establishments within 61 meters from an available sewer pipeline “must not be compelled to install STP.  In fact, the Ordinance requires them to connect to the available sewer pipeline”.

In his 2nd Post, released on 22nd August. Cabrera also questions why a MOA for the construction of 100 individual and 5 clustered STP’s from 26 April 2018, was entered in to with a Private Company, ahead of the closure and not open to tender.  He highlights that the MOA was signed off in June, and 1 month later DENR announces to stakeholders that hotels with 6+ rooms are required to have their own or clustered STP’s.

Johnathan Cabrera on revelation that DENR had MOA with a BTSI to supply STP's, ahead of making it a requirement for all Boracay hotels
2nd Post from Jonathan Cabrera

It’s interesting also that the sewage pipe, running along Boracay’s White Beach, and which almost all the Beachfront Hotels have previously connected to, is being considered to be condemned and shut down.  Meaning an awful lot of large and small beachfront hotels, restaurants and bars will now be compelled to buy and install an STP, as a sewage pipe will no longer be operating within 61 meters of them!   Back in July, Cimatu was said to be standing firm on his intention to condemn this Sewage Line along the beachfront: Business Mirror

The STP/ MOA debate continues

Boracay Lawyer, Ari Ben Sebastian, added to the raging debate.  In his post he points out that whilst Boracay’s other Water Company, BIWC (Boracay Island Water Company) was unaware of the MOA, they have also stated that the STP’s they are installing can handle the present sewage requirements.   In addition, he adds that DENR does not have the Authority to change the Law; the Law only requires that establishments connect to a sewer line, and two main pipes already exist on Boracay.

Boracay Lawyer, Ari Ben Sebastian on STP Requirements
Boracay Lawyer, Ari Ben Sebastian on STP Requirements

Adding further fuel to the rising anger and frustration, among Stakeholders  – Interior Undersecretary Densing III states only 1/3rd of Boracay Establishments are ready for opening

Interior Undersecretary Densing III is reported to have said that only around 71, out of 440 Hotels and Resorts will be open by October 26.  The Inquirer advised that Densing commented to reporters, after the Senate Hearing of the Committee of Environmental and Natural Resources:

“It’s not [in] the interest of everybody to keep Boracay closed … but if they will not comply with the law to make sure the water quality [is] okay, we have to [make] do with 30 percent.” 

Boracay Businesses angered by misleading compliancy comments
Inside Boracay: Week 17 Stakeholders hit back

The comments have left stakeholders fuming, as they’re already back to square one with securing all the papers to be fully compliant, after ALL Environment Compliant Certificates (ECC’s) were cancelled by DENR Secretary Cimatu.

As one Stakeholder said “They make it sound like we are deliberately resisting Compliance.  It’s really ridiculous” in response to The Inquirers coverage in the Article “Just 1 of 3 Boracay Businesses Ready to Reopen”

Another stated, on their personal Facebook wall “We have been connected to BIWC (Boracay Island Water Company) ever since and we had no problem meeting the standards, until they, the DENR imposed a new rule that 49 rooms and below should have their own STP or join a cluster.

Our ECC was fine until they cancelled it and added more rules to comply and that was when the issue of STP’s came out.

The answer is simple “BIG BUCKs” for who (?????)”

22nd August Boracay Foundation Inc publicly release an official copy of the statement made by their representative, at the 3rd Senate Hearing Committee of Environmental and Natural Resources:-

The Statement covered 4 key areas:

  1.  Request for the extension of the One Stop Shop in Boracay
  2. Confusion and uncertainty due to varying pronouncements made about STP’s.
  3. The blanket cancellation of ECC’s
  4. The state of the Island’s Main Road
  • Boracay Foundation Inc Official Statement Page 1. re Compliancy Issues ahead of Boracay Opening
  • Boracay Foundation Inc Official Statement Page 1. re Compliancy Issues ahead of Boracay Opening
  • Boracay Foundation Inc Official Statement Page 1. re Compliancy Issues ahead of Boracay Opening
  • Boracay Foundation Inc Official Statement Page 1. re Compliancy Issues ahead of Boracay Opening

21st August Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod urges Boracay’s Displaced Workers to apply for Financial Assistance.

Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod is urging any of Boracay’s Displaced Workers, who have not yet started a claim for Financial Assistance, to visit their nearest Regional DOLE Office and start the process.  Displaced Workers can apply for just over 4,000.00PHP a month for up to 6 months.  This equates to half the monthly minimum wage in Region 6.

It is believed that only 20% of the 21,000 Displaced Workers have made a successful application.

22nd August – Party Island No More

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has confirmed that Boracay will no longer be marketed as a ‘Party Island’.  Instead the focus will be on a peaceful and sustainable tourism destination.  She has definitely ruled out any more LaBoracay long-weekends taking place on the Island.   Something which will be a relief to a great many residents and islanders who were plagued by Blackouts, loss of water, noise and having to man volunteer teams to clean up the trash and debris left on the beach, by party goers during this 4-5 day event.

Several News Reports have referred to a ‘Curfew’ being implemented as well, but exactly what that curfew will be is yet to be decided.  Currently, Bars tend to close around 2am, and clubs around 4am.  The subject of a curfew will be discussed with the Interagency Taskforce Boracay Group.

Fantastic Video from Elevated Pictures showing the developments around Bulabog Beach and the Main Road of Boracay

Islanders have been out in force capturing developments on the island for our Week in Photo’s Gallery

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