By Freida Dario-Santiago and Photo by Jack Jarilla (@boracayphotographer)
Last Year, the Boracay Inter Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG) has disallowed fireworks in Boracay, having just reopened to tourism after the six-month closure.
As of press time, acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista has appealed to the Boracay Inter Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG), for the lifting of the ban on behalf of the people of Malay and Boracay. Likewise, according to SB Nenette A. Graf, she, along with all other Malay councilors are set to file a resolution that proposes to allow a one-hour fireworks display (11:45 p.m. to 12:45 a.m.), with boats coming from Malay town and allowed no closer than 600-meters offshore at White Beach.
As we celebrate a new decade, and commemorate a brand new chapter in Boracay island’s kaleidoscopic history, the second New Year since post-closure, and a year and a half since the island closure, the people of Boracay are anticipating the upcoming New Year’s Eve 2020 with bated breath, in hopes that the fireworks ban be lifted, and the community along with our families and visitors from all around the world, can behold and enjoy this age-old Boracay tradition – the spectacular annual fireworks show participated along the entire stretch of world-famous White Beach, a most momentous event that truly embodies the spirit of “Auld Lang Syne,” and bid the past farewell and welcome a fresh and promising new decade of hope, together.
Here are some statements that NBS has gathered from some island residents and stakeholders as they weigh in on lifting the ban.
RAdm. Leonard Tirol
PCGA, Founder, Boracay Action Group (BAG) / Boracay Fire Rescue & Ambulance Volunteers
White House Beach Resort
“Boracay’s Fireworks Display on New Year's Eve celebrations has always been in the calendar of activities of many family-oriented gatherings for the past 20 or more. Boracay has now regained the top spot as the “Number 1 Tourist Destination in Asia” and is also now in the “Top 5 Best Beaches in the World.”
Many activities that brought the island of Boracay to where it is was before the closure, were the international dragon boat races on our shores, international Asian Kite boarding competitions in Bulabog, international beach volleyball tournaments, and Boracay has also produced champions in Asian Frisbee competitions.
But what most Filipinos look forward to is to witness the very famous “Fireworks Display of Boracay.” The BIATF has banned this last year, but that was understandable and the Islanders accepted it because of the ongoing rehabilitation. Last New Year 2019, the BIARMG allowed fireworks on condition that it should be in the Mainland, four to five kilometers away. It was a disaster. No sponsors nor business establishments wanted to spend a cent on this, knowing that it would be hardly seen by the island’s guests, thousands of whom canceled their trips, knowing Boracay's Fireworks Display was BANNED.
MY TAKE ON THIS ISSUE: The BIARMG should ask around how Boracay celebrates our New Year’s Eve and their apprehension that the Fireworks Display would pollute the beachfront. They should know that New Year’s is during Amihan meaning the winds blow westward towards the open sea assuring that debris do not fall on the beach.
Most important is that the day after, January 1 or 2, the island’s divers conduct “UNDERWATER CLEANUP” activities, removing all fallen debris from the fireworks. This has been done for years, thus the BIARMG should know this. The shores of Boracay have always been cleaned. The community and many organizations do regular beach cleanups on weekends so they cannot say that the beach is dirty and polluted.
The BIARMG should also allow the setting-up of tables and chairs during dinner time, within the 25+5 easement zone, for the island’s guests to have the best view of the Fireworks Display. They should be proud and take credit finally for having allowed the New Year’s Fireworks Display to show the world that Boracay is getting back the glory it once held as the BEST TOURIST DESTINATION in the country, Asia and the world.
The Local Government of Malay (LGU) should work hand-in-hand with the Provincial Government to approve the Fireworks Display this coming New Year. It should be a controlled event to show the BIARMG that the Boracay community are now a disciplined people after experiencing the six-month closure.”
“Why not celebrate New Year 2020 with a controlled big bang fireworks display? It’s been over a year of sacrifices and hard work made by the island’s residents, stakeholders, and LGU/National government in making Boracay number one again and it’s about time we celebrate these accomplishments with a firework display in welcoming the New Year and the New Decade 2020's.
We have been making strides in improving Boracay’s environment these past 20 months and 15 to 30 minutes of fireworks display will not make much of a negative impact on the island’s environment. Let’s show the world that Boracay island is not just all business and regulations but also a place to celebrate just like the good old days!”
The fireworks ban in its second year is a mistake. Fireworks belong to any destination and are everywhere around the globe, even in “environmental sensitive” areas.
Fireworks on Boracay before the closure were kind-of organized: private fireworks were not allowed anymore and one couldn’t bring in fireworks without permits. Permits were restricted to the big resorts that had their own fireworks.
A year after the reopening you would think that the fireworks ban would not only be lifted, but would be well-organized, knowing that this has been a long-running Boracay tradition. For example, the LGU and Task Force could host a 30-minute “fireworks competition” and allow some resorts to team-up and have say, two barges that are at least 100-meters away from the shore. This would definitely make for a powerful marketing tool for tourism.
Instead, we have a total ban. This makes the New Year’s celebrations (celebrated since centuries by mankind with festivities, joy, hope and noise), simply DULL.
Last year was okay, because we were happy that Boracay had opened again and guests still came and we were under the impression that the Task Force would continue to manage the island but would amend many strict regulations in due time. But so many things were banned! The environment which is cited as a reason for the fireworks ban is not valid: there is not much environment left as Station 1 to Station 3 is a city.
By the way, you’ve probably heard of silent fireworks. The last remaining fish would for sure not mind…
Boracay Foundation, Inc.
Proposal Letter Proposal for New Years' Eve Fireworks Display
MS. NATIVIDAD BERNARDINO
Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group
Dear GM Bernardino,
The island of Boracay has been declared as Asia’s Best Island by Condé Nast recently after the island was closed for six months’ rehabilitation in 2018. This is to prove that Boracay can offer more of its true beauty to the world and we have way more to go to be the world’s best beach.
In the past, during the Christmas and New Year’s week there is a continuous increase of tourist arrivals each year to experience and celebrate the holidays in Paradise and spectate our world-famous island fireworks display. Unfortunately, many people opted to spend their holiday festivities in some other parts of the country to enjoy the more festive spirit such as traditional NYE fireworks.
Listed below is the arrival status during Christmas & New Years from the year 2017 & 2018 differences:
December 2017 – 173, 891
December 2018 – 146,085
Based from the Municipal Tourism Office, our tourist arrivals have differed 16 percent less from the past year. There are also reports that in the past months, tourist numbers have declined compared to the first three quarters, and have lessened in numbers from the past few months.
In connection with this, the Boracay Foundation, Inc. through our board and member establishments is asking the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group through your office the approval of our proposal of permitting the one-night fireworks display for the New Year 2020. It will surely be appreciated by our local community, members and tourists most especially, to witness Boracay to once again be lighted with fireworks during the countdown to 2020.
BIARMG can facilitate the permit through the LGU and even be implemented with the respective fees accordingly. As indicated by our members, we are willing to comply with necessary restrictions that you may impose and regulate for the safety and order on the island. With this, we can already advertise to our members and partner establishments and associations in the world and have something to look forward to and at least enliven the holiday vibe for families and other groups who have come to enjoy the NYE celebrations.
We are all looking forward to a favorable response on our request and live up to our name of being a fun NYE destination, without compromising the environment. We hope you will consider our request and we look forward to a possible meeting to discuss our suggestion.
Thank you very much and we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
DIONISIO J. SALME