By Jen Freeman
On April 26, 2018, Boracay Island was closed to the public for the beginning of a six-month rehabilitation period, on the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, who dubbed the island a “cesspool”.
Two years on from the closure date, and now during the Covid-19 quarantine periods, work on the roads and drainage still ongoing and it seems that everyone has something to say about it! We asked residents and business owners to respond to the following questions:
What are the positives that you’ve observed as a result of the rehabilitation process?
Are there aspects of the “old” Boracay that you miss?
What changes would you like to see here, moving forward?
Their responses did not disappoint!
Laketown and the roads. I do miss the cozy tiny roads that gave you the feeling of an island than a city, but the new roads with sidewalks and drainages are a blessing. Boracay was at the brink especially with all the new vehicles (vans and cars). Lake town looks beautiful if they would open it, but I guess they’re waiting to do another political stunt so some people can get credit.
I miss the beach tables and chairs at night and the individual lighting of every establishment. It's all dark now and everyone has to sit behind the beach path to have some cocktails or drinks. Places like Pirates, Congas, Spider House, Charlhs bar, to name a few.
A revamp of the paperwork system, ban on private cars or cars in general and a critical habitat. I believe the paperwork needed for a business or anything to be exact (health card etc) is so outdated and frustrating and time consuming it's not even funny. A critical habitat encompassing marine areas and forest areas is a much needed thing and was actually promised by Cimatu himself before closure, we have endemic endangered species that are being hunted on a daily basis, overfishing and overdevelopment is really an issue. And lastly for a 7km island I think cars are a no-no.
Of course very happy regarding any successful rehabilitation on the Island but concerned about the length of time to completion. We here on the island have been subjected to a variety of situations which have negatively affected almost all island inhabitants and businesses.
These situations have been not slight in nature but HUGE. The island has resembled almost a ghost town on most days. Now comes the latest debacle, the virus. Survival is a question mark. Would be really great if the National Government recognizes the plight of Boracay citizens & businesses and offers both financial support & whatever help else that can be accomplished.
Improved infrastructure. Roads are good, sidewalks are wide, Bolabag beach water is now clean from sewage water. Electricity infra has improved. There is a slight semblance of order. All businesses are required to comply with all regulations in order to operate which created a fair playing field for establishments that have always been compliant.
The relaxed atmosphere (everyone knew everyone) and camaraderie resulting from living in a province/small island (it has felt like a city for many years, mostly when McDo and fast food chains showed up), the charm of small establishments built with native materials, sitting comfortably on a chair on the beach for sunset.
Proper management and administration of the ever-changing needs of the island.
Amy Azana Penas
The positives I observed was, the rehabilitation of the beaches, the prohibition of the bars and restos on the 30m coastline and the construction of the drainage and sewage system.
I just miss the century old trees that were cut. Before we can feel the fresh air while walking or travelling on the streets.
Some of the changes that I would like to see in the near future are first, proper waste disposal. Until now the project on proper waste disposal still failed. There were times the air is polluted with the bad smell from the garbage disposal area. Second is to see that the road and the walkways are all done.
Jeff Bechere Resident
The front beach is much more appealing, seeing more fish during snorkeling. Our roads are slowly improving and the back beach smells so much better at low tide.
I always looked forward to New Years fireworks and the International Volleyball championships and walks to the Spider House.
I'd like to see road construction and wastewater plant speed up before big rains come. Bring back a sandcastle or two when the beach reopens.
Well, in the reality was not positives as result of the rehabilitation. The closure of the island lead to many private and public stakeholders increasing the prices of everything due the loss of 6 months business. Especially for trike operators.
The aspects that I miss are many. I would like to see again freedom on the beach front for pet owners, fire dancers, parties 24/7 as it was before.
I would like to see more police and LGU around. Fine heavy trike drivers that are overcharging the passengers.
As a suggestion, could be good if the LGU and the mayor could work on getting a electricity company that really works, not Akelco. Same as for the water line. No more these companies that are just imposed, we need something nice and efficient. D.T. Artist
Cleanliness/sewage/garbage problems needs more upgrading and finished!
Stray animals need to be taken out of the island and spayed/neutered and put up for adoption.
Jetty ports shall be organized and people working should be polite and well-educated. Cops and other force multipliers shall be visible all over the island especially in dark areas and shall be round-the-clock, instead of them roving only by 10 pm (or 11 and that’s it) worse even trying to "hookup" with tourists (paGwapo) or just texting.
Rosemarie Sen Resident
The beach is really looking so beautiful. Can see the vegetation. The sea is cleaner. Still no green algae mid-March. There are sidewalks for pedestrians.
Miss the Boracay mojo, Red Pirates, Monkey House.
Speed up the rehabilitation process, better garbage collection, put up separate collection for batteries etc. Facilitate the entry process - 1 payment for boat, terminal and environmental. Visible trash cans in the beach, more street, pathway lights. Phase out the tricycles. Put up a better payment - electronic for e-trikes, unlimited monthly, weekly, 3 day rides. This way no abuses. No cash exchanged. E-trikes get a regular salary and give bonuses based on performance. The more e-coupons logged the higher the bonus. Better policing and enforcement on violators on vendors, petty crimes, burglaries.
White Beach is much nicer when you can see the beautiful lines of palm trees, no flea markets along the beach, no loud music daytime etc. The roads will be better, especially now with sidewalks although it seems to take time. The best with the Coronavirus, as a visitor, is the decrease of tourists! This year was, according to me, the best in many years although I feel for the establishments losing money. But the island is over established.
I Really miss the ambience of "old Boracay" such as bars/restaurants like Spider House, Congas, Red Pirates, Treehouse - the native, real, authentic places! Boracay has turned into a Chinatown the last 4-5 years to only focus to the Chinese/Korean market. As a European foreigner I started to feel a bit pushed away from the island, like "not welcome anymore" despite I'm spending way more than 3 days these people are flying in for. And I am also spending money in the local establishments instead of Chinese/Korean owned places like they do. I miss sunbeds since I get heavily bitten by sand flies. I miss being able to dine on the beach since there is hardly any outdoor, near-beach dining anymore. I miss my sunset beer in a beanbag or chair on the beach. Smoking inside a restaurant instead of outside must be a joke?
Garbage is still a Big Problem! No trash cans hardly anywhere since no establishments are willing to segregate them as I heard. Still a lot to do regarding the roads And please...No bridge!!
*Some names have been changed upon request.