Cover Image: Cory Batchelor
Inside Boracay: Week 21
The end of Week 21 of closure leaves the island with just 37 days before the Soft Opening of 26th October, and more changes have been made to the Requirements for re-opening; in fact twice, in the same week, the STP Requirements were changed.
Quite possibly because the Boracay Stakeholders, who don’t seem to be consulted with until AFTER decisions are made, pointed out that the new STP Requirements dated 10th September, would result in only a few Hotels opening and no boutique hotels, restaurants or bars.
And, whilst White Beach is stunningly beautiful, that’s probably not enough for a tourist who expects a range of options for dining and drinking whilst on their holiday!
Inside Boracay: Week 21 arising issues
- 2 Clarification updates to STP Requirement released in same week
- Boracay Official opening won’t happen until December 2019
- DOT asks airlines to reduce flights to Boracay, to manage arrival numbers
- LGU Office demolished for breaching Coastal Easement Rule
- Access ID Card Requirement for visitors, residents and workers
Inside Boracay: Week 21 – Two STP Requirement Updates within a week
DENR released two updates/clarifications to their STP Requirements ahead of re-opening, within days of each other.
The original requirements, which already differ from the Municipality’s Boracay Island Comprehensive Wastewater Ordinance No.307 (Inside Boracay: Week 17) stated that only White Beach fronting Hotels were required to have an STP.
In the 10th September Clarification notice this changed the requirement to ALL hotels in Boracay, including small establishments of just 6 rooms, needing to have an STP to be classed as compliant. Regardless of whether they were already connected to the Sewage Line.
In the 18th September Clarification Notice the requirement is now back to White Beach Hotels with 50+ rooms, whilst hotels with less than 50 rooms are required to have their own, or share a cluster STP. All other hotels in Boracay, which are not beachfront, are now required to either have their own STP or be connected to the sewer.
The building of STP’s has also been phased in, by hotel size. Hotels and establishments have now been advised that they will be considered compliant, and allowed to re-open, if they are connected to the existing sewage line and have started to build their STP. If their STP is not fully installed and inspected by the relevant phased date, their compliance status will be revoked and they will not be allowed to operate.
Inside Boracay: Week 21 – 13th September DOT Secretary announces that Boracay rehabilitation won’t be complete until December 2019.
Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, DOT Secretary advised, during the Senate Committee Finance Hearing for the 2019 DOT Budget Hearing, that it will take more than a year to complete the rehabilition of Boracay [1. GMA News Online]. Puyat explained that only the major roads of Boracay will have been laid by the soft opening of October 26, or Phase 1. Puyat added that Phase 2 Re-opening will be in April 2019, with the final re-opening phase in December 2019.
Puyat has submitted a Budget Proposal for the DOT of P3.39Billion
Inside Boracay: Week 21 – 13th September DOT Secretary confirms that Airlines have been asked to limit their flights
With the Carry Capacity announcement of 11th September, as covered in our Week 20 article, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, DOT Secretary confirmed, at the same Senate Hearing, she will be asking Airlines to limit their flights in to Boracay.
“I have been talking with the airlines, I talked with Jimmy Bautista [Philippine Airlines] and Lance Gokongwei [Cebu Pacific]. They said they would reduce the number of flights to Caticlan and Kalibo. The only way you reduce the number of people going to Boracay is to lessen the flights going there, since 98 percent of the visitors go by air.” [2.Business Mirror].
Philippine Airlines (PAL) used to offer 52 flights to Caticlan, and 42 flights to Kalibo a week. Departures for these flights coming from Clark, Cebu and Manila, as well as China, Korea and Taiwan.
PAL President, Jaime J. Bautista, has stated that there is little point offering the International flights if there won’t be enough rooms on Boracay, to accommodate the passengers. The first 25 hotels confirmed as ready for the re-opening will only provide 2,063 rooms. Although DENR/DILG have confirmed that there are 2,000 establishments in the process of verification.
Prior to the announcement Cebu Pacific was offering 7 flights a day in to Caticlan and 6 flights a week in to Kalibo, starting from 26th October.
The DOT’s plan to limit flights to Boracay, and to stop visitors entering through Caticlan Port, unless they can provide proof of a booking at a ‘Compliant Hotel’ goes against the Right to Travel and Freedom of Movement (Philippine Constitution of 1987). Puyat confirmed that the legality of the plans to limit access to Boracay, needs to be carefully studied ahead of the re-opening.
Inside Boracay: Week 21 – 13th September 180 Establishments issued with ECC’s
Benny Antiporda, DENR Undersecretary confirmed that 180 Establishments have already been issued with an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), and have been presented to the DOT for inclusion in the Soft Opening.
Antiporda added that it was possible that as many as 500 establisments will receive their ECC ahead of the Re-opening date [3. PhilStar Global]
Inside Boracay: Week 21 – 18th September Coastal Clean-up
Boracay took part in the 2018 Annual International Coastal Clean Up. Despite many of the islands Divers being located elsewhere in the Philippines, for work, whilst Boracay is closed. The Underwater Clean-up activity was led by the Boracay Business Administration of Scuba Shops (BBASS) and joined by Deputy Ground Commander Al Orolfo, MENRO Haron Deo Vargas, Noa Macavinta (BFI) in partnership with Mermaid Mission, who also provided T-shirts and food to the volunteers.
Focusing specifically on Angol Point Reef, particularly popular for snorkeling stops on Boracay’s Island Hopping Tours, the team collected more than 20 sacks of litter.
Inside Boracay: Week 21 – 18th September DENR Reiterates no Casino’s in the same week a hotel Posts hiring for Casino Workers
During a press conference with Boracay Stakeholders Sherwin Rigor, DENR Undersecretary reiterated that there will be no casino’s on Boracay. And any establishments, which previously held a Gaming Licence from the Philippine Gaming Corporation, will have this revoked. Rigor added that hotels that have been known to run one-off Gaming Nights would also be investigated and advised that casino’s were no longer permitted.
“No casinos and online gambling shall be allowed in the island, whether new or existing ones,” [4. Boracay Informer].
Within days of this announcement various facebook job forums featured an advert for Gaming Staff
During the same Press Conference, Rigor advised that a group called Compliant Association of Boracay, has been formed. The group will assist the Taskforce with issues such as workers relocation to the mainland and the implementation of policies relating to the re-opening of Boracay.
Inside Boracay: Week 21 – 19th September DENR muses Access ID Cards for Boracay.
DENR Secretary, Roy Cimatu, announced that the department was looking in to the idea of ID Cards to manage the numbers of people visiting, and living on, Boracay.
The idea has been mused in response to the Carry Capacity Survey that was recently carried out.
Tourist, Residents and Workers would all be required to register, possibly through different website portals. Tourists will be required to include their intended length of stay in their online application. It is not yet clear if DENR has already been approached by anyone offering an existing system, or to build one. Although, Rappler [5. Rappler] reports that Cimatu has said they would ‘observe how the system would be implemented during the dry run on October 15’.
In the same article, Rappler queries why the system need to be in place. Rappler journalist, Ralf Rivas, points out that the only time Boracay Arrivals come close to the Tourist Carry Capacity of 19,000 is during the months of February, April and May. Ralf asks
“But if the number of Boracay’s tourist arrivals is well within the threshold during most months, why is the government imposing a limit?”
An anonymous quote, given in the article by an ‘Official’, is that the island “actually needs more tourists because the island can take it” and the issue is mainly about the sewage issues, whilst the pipes are still being replaced and extended.
Inside Boracay: Week 21 – 19th September LGU Offices Built inside 25+5 zone is demolished.
Malay’s LGU began the demolition of its own Station 2 beachfront building, after The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) demanded that the building be demolished.
The new two-storey sub office, for the Malay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO), Tourist Center and Public Toilets was under construction prior to the closure. It had already raised protests among Boracay Stakeholders and Residents that the LGU were, themselves, breaking the DENR Coastal Easement Rule.
DENR Undersecretary for Attached Agencies, Sherwin Rigor, addressed the Demolition Order to Mayor Ceciron Cawaling, citing the violation of the “25+5” Coastal Easement rule. The letter included a comment that the half-constructed building was contrary to the entire purpose of closing and redeveloping of the island.
Meanwhile, due to the lack of relocation site for a temporary office, the MDRRMO has advised the public that the 24/7 operation of their office in Boracay will be temporarily halted and reduced to the hours of 8:00am to 5:00pm [6. Boracay Informer].
Inside Boracay: A Week In Photos
- DOT chief Puyat says Boracay rehab will be completed by Dec. 2019 – GMA News Online
- Carriers mull over flight cuts to lessen tourist visit to Boracay – Business Mirror
- DOT tells airlines: ‘Limit flights to Boracay’ – PhilStar Global
- No casinos in Boracay when it reopens, DENR reiterates – Boracay Informer
- Gov’t to issue access cards for Boracay tourists – Rappler
- LGU starts demolition of beachfront building – Boracay Informer