By Robert Morales
Two years ago, when President Duterte announced that he felt Boracay was a “cess pool” and decided, almost without warning, to totally close the island down, most business people and residents were shocked.
Some thought that maybe it would have been done in phases; Station 1 first, then Station 2; and then on and so on. But no – close the whole island down came the order. No one was allowed to visit the Island, and thousands lost their jobs.
Along with the order to close the Island, came harsh instructions from the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) to demolish anything and everything within a 25+ 5-meter perimeter of the sea. But oddly enough, the perimeter line kept being moved, and then moved again, and very few of us had a clue as to what was occurring. But the DENR seemed to know alright.
Regardless if the “offending” structure was your home, business, or often both – knock it down, or we will knock it down and send you the bill for doing so; came their orders.
The huge torrent of complaints from property owners fell on deaf ears. Many, in fact most, of the property owners had official building permits granting permission to build, coming from - you guessed right - the DENR themselves.
Yet it was deemed that erring DENR officials shouldn’t have issued the permits (but they did) in the first place, so they were now null and void - so just demolish your building, and by the way, even though you had official paperwork for it, from us, we’re not going to pay you any compensation for our mistakes.
Now, let’s look at what happened during last week’s tropical storm. Heavy rains once again brought havoc to Boracay’s roads, alleyways, as well as the d’mall shopping area. I remember during the six months of enforced closure reading/being told that the new drainage system (which came at an enormous cost) would see an end to our flooding problems. Well, that one never worked either did it?
Tens of millions, probably hundreds of millions, of pesos seemed have been washed away somewhere, because they don’t seem to have fixed what they were supposed to.
Many Boracay businesses, residents and stakeholders feel once again that they’ve been cheated. The Island continues to suffer from the horrid effects handed down to us both from nature and mankind.
Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA)
There has been a lot of lobbying (spearheaded by Congressman Paolo Duterte) for a new authorative body, BIDA, to oversee and administer regulations on Boracay. This form of governance has worked extremely well in Subic Bay, and many believe it would be the solution to many of the Island’s problems. But it appears that our local government unit (LGU), among some others, are not yet ready to entirely hand the reins over to someone else. Considering what’s continuously happened due to misgovernance in the past, one would have thought they would be happy to let someone else take on the responsibility – one can only wonder what their motives might be, right?
It’s proposed that BIDA will consist of one administrator and 10 representatives coming from different government bodies.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drillon who introduced the senate BIDA bill said, “It is apparent that Boracay has suffered from the governmental system currently in place. It has failed to provide the Island with the protection and preservation that it needs. Real and lasting changes must therefore be made. Restoring Boracay to its old, pristine glory is a lofty goal. Creating the authority would help ensure that the Island will continue to exist with a functioning ecosystem, under a workable plan for sustainable development.”
A recent special report on BIDA finished off by stating, “So if Boracay Island doesn’t exist under an autonomous authority, or if the national government continues to allow the local government to bungle the administration of the Island, the Island might lose the very paradise people fall in love with. It is therefore, imperative for the national government to put a limit to the decision-making power of the local government of Malay if it wants a foolproof system in place on Boracay Island – one that will promote and accelerate sustainable development and growth while maintaining ecological balance, which are embodied in House Bill 6214.”