LETTERS FROM DAVAO: Revisiting Boracay

By: Jun Ledesma, Columnist, Philippines News Agency

Revisiting Boracay

Except for a number of leftist Party-list organizations, which are legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New Peoples Army, only the grandstanding clerics and non-government organizations are still stirring up a storm from a whiff of wind. Ex-Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno opted to fight her battle in her own turf and against her peers and democracy will not die just because she lost in that. Only the communists and their legal fronts are shouting “DEMOCRACY IS DEAD” — a fiery statement which they are wont to trumpet anyway.

So we move on but wait. Let me take you back to the other controversial subject — Boracay – where some startling events took place while the High Court was on fire. It looks like while everybody was focused on the Sereno debate, the vultures in Boracay are back with their brute exercise of power and insatiable greed.

While we are shown the luxuriant growth of algae that feed on untreated pollutants from the establishments along what used to be a pristine shoreline of Boracay, we have yet to be updated on the issue of massive corruption involving billions of pesos collected from environmental fees, the sale of wetlands, “sale” of permits to establishments which allowed to build structures within the so-called 25+5 shoreline demarkation. And if I were to add a question because this matter seemed to be buried in the polluted sands of Boracay, I want to know why the water utilities failed to provide a decent sewerage system when their water rates is about the most expensive in the Philippines, if not the world?

The DENR, DPWH and DILG are showing us pictures of sewerage and drainage pipes to impress us they discovered something spectacular. Those are hogwash. What these agencies should tell us is why the water utilities has no sewerage system in this little island of 1,000 hectares and why the local government simply closed their eyes on this and other anomalies that reeks in this island paradise gone cesspool. Consider this, when President Duterte ordered the closure, the local government of Boracay, the local tourism industry and the Department of Tourism estimated that the total estimated revenues loss will amount to P60-billion in the 6-month period that it will be closed. If this is so, then how come the facilities are so decrepit and yes, President Duterte is correct in calling it a virtual cesspool.

I wrote a piece about Boracay when President Duterte ordered the closure of the island to tourism activity for what we may term as a major rehab. I thought that was that, but I am getting a deluge of information including photos that are too shocking as to be ignored. The most recent was the flagrant violation of Presidential and Department directives to stop any development in the island. But what do we see? The whole mountain top levelled flat and the trees gone! This islet, I presume, is crawling with DENR and local government authorities to include a contingent of soldiers. Then how can this blatant abuse take place? The lame excuse we are getting is that that wide area of land cleared on top of the forest land took place long before the closure order. My gosh they haven’t stop their tomfoolery. The levelled ground and its color show this was a very recent activity.

Then I received several photos of West Cove being demolished not only by sledge hammers but the bastards set the building on fire! In any language you can term this ARSON. I received a copy of a police report which identified who were present in the building when several rooms of the hotel were burning. The owner of West Cove, a certain Cris Aquino, only recourse to reach authorities to air his grievance is via Facebook. Pity the guy, I hope it is not because of his name that he is being subjected to this ignominy. In his posts, we learned that he obtained a special land use permit (for tourism) from DENR and had been paying his dues promptly. He said that it is not true that the Supreme Court nullified his FLAG-T permit. What seems to be his calvary is the cancellation of the FLAG-T permit by DENR by the previous administration, which he said is presently under appeal with the office of the President.

If this Aquino reads Duterte’s edict that if complaints similar to his are not acted in 72 hours, these are either deemed granted or he should assert his right before the President himself. If the President is busy, you have an action man in the person of Sec. Christopher “Bong” Go who is also on top of the Presidential Management Staff to get your case moving.

Let’s leave Aquino in his misery and look at other administratively actionable shenanigans that is taking place in the rehab of the island. One big hotel establishment, which was reported as having grave violation, is not being touched. Many DENR and DILG officials are billeted here. Only the soldiers are living in tents. I was told the management even had the gall to display a tarpaulin which says “business as usual”.

And what about the road widening? Instead of the width of 30 meters as decreed reports I got is that the previous local administration passed a resolution that only 12 -meter wide road be constructed with no provision for a mandatory pedestrian walkway. What happened to the 9-meter area in both side of the road which were later rented or sold out to the occupants? Who is collecting the rental or who profited from the sale or these precious piece of government property? Either the DPWH personnel are not studying their laws and regulations that apply to their department or are scared to ask the question or reclaim from the building owners what belongs to the government.

The beach fronts of big-named hotels are still their private domains when these should be for the public. DENR has come up with the list of violators. Maybe it is about time we see the results. What is the P2-billion calamity fund for Boracay for?
Just asking.

In this island where there are more tourists than residents and had been the Philippines prime tourists’ destination, it is surfacing from the cesspool around it that it too is a showcase of corruption.

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