By Noel Cabobos
World class. That’s the classification that travelers, most of whom are customers and tourism industry experts from around the world, have labeled Boracay.
Just a few months ago, or shortly after the island reopened to visitors after the six-month rehabilitation, the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler readers awards, chose Boracay, and named it the “2019 Best Island in Asia”.
Well, for many times in the past, Boracay has been a recipient of various international awards such as TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for World’s Best Beaches, Word’s Best Island Getaway by Travel + Leisure magazine, and 4th Most Beautiful Island Beach on Earth by Most on the World, among others.
Certainly, everyone on the island are delighted to garnish such awards. Stakeholders are happy because the awards show that compared with their global counterparts, the resort services here are recognized as being superior. Hotel crews perhaps, are smiling from ear-to-ear because the distinction depicts their quality performance, which ultimately leads to returning customers.
Needless to say, our officials are also ebullient because the citation denotes standard-setting excellence in terms of the island’s administration relative to customer satisfaction. And that is simply a pogi point or so, they believe.
Of course, I am happy too. But partly, I am not. I cannot just sit back and be happy about it overwhelmingly in the face of some hard realities that are still troubling many of us on the island; such as the local government’s laxity in implementing laws and rules on the island, which even the DILG cannot deny.
Yes, political will was clearly out of sight, and this, I think, was the main cause why the island was so messed up leading to the “cesspool” declaration of President Duterte which eventually paved way for the national government to take part in the rehabilitation, and then implementing laws on discipline and order.
Let’s look at our traffic, for instance. We are not gifted with a liberal stretch of road that one can see on world-class islands like Waikiki in Hawaii, and Bali in Indonesia, but of course, we can troubleshoot this by improving the traffic system and making sure that we have disciplined drivers in our midst.
Time and again, this corner has been emphasizing the despicable attitude of most drivers here, those who, despite the narrow roads on the island, are too fond of overtaking and ‘honking’ their way through traffic. Pedestrians crossing the roads, are sometimes, not spared by these sanamagans who have no respect for traffic laws. Not to mention the fact that most of the drivers, if not all of them, are notorious for overcharging passengers. In most cases, they refuse to take on local passengers in favor of foreign tourists whom they can overcharge.
Acting Mayor Fromy Bautista recently launched a program “Bawal ang Pasaway sa Boracay”, but I’m sorry to say that ceremonies for pogi point purposes will never solve that. An integrated approach and strict implementation are needed to solve the long list of chaos that is now hounding the island. A ningas-cogon project, even though how much pabida you would make out of it, won’t change a thing.
What’s more? The street signs. We are so boastful of the world-class tag, but what we see are street signages which are often an obstruction themselves. Can’t we make some better ones, or at least some kind of a hanging world-class signboards which can really help ease traffic and not those that are protruding onto the road contributing to the traffic dilemma?
The 1st class Municipality of Malay, with all its taxes and tourism gains, of course, have enough funds to provide a solution, but why won’t they do something to solve this traffic mess?
Another thing, the number of visiting tourists to Boracay is now topped by Chinese and Koreans, but the local government cannot even afford to upgrade informative signboards to cater to these tourists who are basically poor at understanding the English language. We have to consider the fact that nationals of these two countries abound on the island and are playing in the top 2 list among travelers over the past 5 to 7 years.
Whilst our police officers do a great job of controlling crime on the island. How about the traffic enforcers? Yes, I mean those traffic enforcers who should be taught how to prioritize their job over and above everything else when they are out in the field. Are they there to text a pal, call somebody, or is their job to direct the traffic? Seeing them texting or calling somebody, with the grin and smile of a Joker, while the traffic is building up right under their noses, is indeed an annoying problem.
You see, if you are powerless even in imposing discipline on simple matters just like the traffic problem, how can you be an effective one on bigger issues that are hounding Boracay, like for example, the environment?
Relative to the environment issue, well, it was actually a blessing for Boracay that the national government intervened and provided, in a way, a holistic approach to “reverse little by little” the effects on the environment of critical projects and massive development on the island. Well done!
The question, however, is how about its sustainability? There is actually a pending Bill both in the Senate and the House of Representatives pushing for the so-called BIDA or Boracay Island Development Authority, which, accordingly, aims to promote and accelerate the sustainable development and growth of Boracay consistent with the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance.
I believe this is actually what the island needs. In the past years, for example, the too fast development and commercialization of Boracay was clearly not within the boundaries of proper planning and zoning. It happened so fast that our officials forgot that development doesn’t only involve architecture, but also its immediate and dangerous effect on environment.
But don’t get me wrong here. I am not against any development for Boracay. I believe that progress should not be stopped from happening to our beloved island. But I also believe too, that any development must be an holistic one, one that is carefully planned and done with an integrated approach that will really benefit not only the tourists, but one that has potential for even faster growth that will profit the locals and the environment as well.
Hopefully, with the administration of the island under an Authority (Dear God, please!), Boracay will be truly worthy of the world-class label in the real sense of the word.
Well, if we fail this time around, or if we allow the local government to continue in handling the administration of the island’s vice, then we might lose more than just the coastlines and sandcastles that we all hold dearly. We may even lose the accolade of being the Philippine’s jewel of tourism. Or worse still, we may lose the island that people from the world over still call paradise.
Yes, it’s now high time to put a limit on the decision-making power of the local government of Malay. And I believe that an “Authority” is in order, one that can implement the change needed to move Boracay towards ecological sustainability. And most of all, an “Authority” that will provide a broader decision context in implementing a systematic management of the island.
And hopefully, it will be for the good.
AFTERTHOUGHTS. I almost forgot to emphasize this point, but the local government officials of Malay should somehow be reminded that Boracay is a multi-billion dollar island resort. Stakeholders here have put in so much towards Boracay’s tourism industry. Their dedicated efforts, tireless passion and dreams, along with funding, built the island’s economy.
I would say even that these investors are the very soul of Boracay’s tourism industry. They have already endured difficult business times, but they suffered in the hope that something better would happen after all of the chaos.
And we cannot question why these people are becoming more and more agnostic about the future of business on Boracay. It is because of the seemingly unfit and unstudied policies being implemented by the local government, those which are literally “too local in nature” and do not complement the design for competitive advantage in order to meet the “rising tide that lifts all boats” so to speak.
What can you expect, anyway, from a group of policymakers, the majority of whom are not skillfully adept (spelled inutile) at drafting the needed measures to aid the business group to hurdle the challenges of these times?
Probably, some (if not most) of these local policymakers are too busy working on their re-election bid, or maybe too engrossed in something such as paying back the goodwill of some people who aided them in past elections, which is why the will to construct better measures and in imposing stricter regulations are naturally put on the sidelines. Tsk…tsk…tsk!
Well, clearly, the case of Boracay is proof of the local government’s ineptitude which is nothing short of a national emergency.
Now, if we will allow the mistakes of the past to happen again, surely we can’t expect that tourism and the local stakeholders alone can help Boracay to again rise to the world-class standards that it truly deserves.
The only remaining sign I can see that the business community on Boracay are pinning their hopes on, I guess, is the eventual take-over by an “Authority” for the tourism and economy of Boracay, one that will accelerate the much-needed rebound.
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