By Jun N. Aguirre and Photos by Freida Dario-Santiago
Opposition from both local government leaders and the private sector is mounting with the proposed operation of a floating bar in Boracay waters, mainly due to violations of the 25+5 easement rule.
Malay acting mayor Floribar Bautista said that if he has the sole authority, he will oppose the project because it could displace hundreds of businesses on Boracay.
“I referred this to the Malay Council for their study and deliberation. If they deny the approval then it’s good, if they approve of it, we’ll see,” he said.
Under the law, the Sanguniang Bayan (SB) creates laws through ordinances, and the executive department represented by the mayor implements it. In the Tawhai issue, the SB can create specific ordinances which the mayor could implement.
Aside from Bautista, businessmen and stakeholders also expressed opposition to the said floating bar in a letter dated January 13 to the Boracay Inter Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG).
“We the stakeholders believe that it is unjust to let this new venture set foot amidst the waters of Boracay, accommodating more than 800 guests afforded the luxury of beach beds, tables, chairs, food & drinks and a beach party all on one boat, when in great contrast, the island itself must comply with the strict rules and implementation of the 25+5 setback and the existing prohibition of any set up, as well as bringing of food and drinks along our coastal area.”
“We the stakeholders have sacrificed tremendously to comply earnestly with the new rules and regulations. We have consistently placed the well-being of our community and our environment, to sustain and maintain the beauty of the island, foremost in our minds in all our dealings.”
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu who chairs the BIARMG said that they have yet to deliberate on the opposition against Tawhai Floating Bar.
“We have yet to receive a manifestation from the Tawhai Floating Bar that they want to operate in Boracay. I do not know about the details yet,” said Cimatu.
The authority of the BIARMG is expected to expire by May of this year. Cimatu said they are still awaiting a decision from President Rodrigo Duterte on whether they will continue their tasks in rehabilitating Boracay or not.
On their Facebook Page: Tawhai Boracay (https://lakawon.com.ph/tawhai-floating-bar/), it is described as the “Biggest Luxury entertainment facility Floating in the Philippines located off the coast of Boracay.”
Last January 20, Boracay Sun News was among the invitees for a private cocktail party and ocular inspection of “Tawhai Boracay Floating Bar and Restaurant.”
On that day, owner Vladimir Gonzalez told us the following:
“I have the clearances already from the DENR and the Marina, the LGU hopefully in the next two weeks and there is resistance from the task force but we are going thru the process.
My permit allows me to operate in any tourist destination, in any waters of the Philippines.
We are a ship, not a motorboat/ bangka. I am legally anchoring here because I am paying PTA.
They type of ship is “floating restaurant.” I am not cruising.
From EMB DENR: “This project is not required to secure any permit, clearance within the mandate of this office as the same is covered within the authority of Marina and Philippine Coast Guard.”
The Philippines has free enterprise. I am coming here as a complement, not as competitor. In fact, if I can bring in more tourists to Boracay because of this concept, I might add on to their business. If you see it from the other side.
And if you notice, we are doing branding. We create that branding so that Philippine tourism can appreciate and embrace the concept to be “WOW Philippines” and only in the Philippines.”
I’m coming here as a friend. In fact, within the week I am going to change residency.
So I mean well. If you have any question with me I am here. If you have any problem, let’s solve it.”
In a letter dated December 5 addressed to the BIARMG, Livino Duran, acting assistant regional director for technical services said that the office has received a request from the BIARMG to conduct an underwater assessment in relation to the proposed floating restaurant off of Boracay.
This writer tried to contact the Tawhai management for a phone interview but was unable to receive any reply.