BORACAY ISLAND–As she joins the bandwagon in pushing for the creation of Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA), Senator Cynthia Villar underscored how the measure will sustain the rehabilitation efforts needed to promote and accelerate the sustainable development and balanced growth of the island.
Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change, noted this in the exploratory note of Senate Bill No. 1914 she filed on November 11 in support of calls to put Boracay Island under the management of an Authority.
Villar’s proposed bill is the second to be filed in the Senate; the first was Senate Bill No. 17 introduced by Senator Franklin Drilon.
In the House of Representatives, various versions of the BIDA bill were lodged soon after Davao City Congressman Paolo Duterte along with Partylist Representatives Eric Yap (ACT-CIS) and Sandro Gonzalez (Marino) had filed HB 6214 on February 5 this year.
In July, President Duterte classified the BIDA bill an important measure, which, he said, should be among the bills that have to be prioritized by Congress.
Villar noted that despite the existence of national laws, the environment continues to “gravely suffer from degradation”, which she attributed to the lackluster execution of environmental laws.
“The apathetic concern for the environment amidst the thriving development in Boracay along with the weak implementation of environmental laws by the authorities eventually led to a polluted Boracay Island,” she said.
Duterte himself described the island “a cesspool” and paved the way for a 6-month closure from April 26-Oct. 26 in 2018.
While lauding the rehabilitation efforts of the President, Villar calls for sustainability of the work already invested to prevent the same misfortune from happening to Boracay again.
She cited the following concerns, among others:
• Tourist accommodation should only be within the carrying capacity of Boracay
• Regular conduct of environmental compliance
• Construction of more sewage treatment plants
• Observance of proper solid waste management
• Massive crackdowns on erring business establishments flagrantly violating environmental laws
• Dismantling of illegal structures in “no-build zones”
• Completion of road and drainage projects
• Continuous rehabilitation of wetlands
Villar said that aside from formulating and implementing short and long-term strategies for the island’s eco-tourism development, the Authority should also establish a graded system of protection and development control over the whole of Boracay Island as well as adopt standards for environmental pollution control of all the areas within its territory.
“BIDA has to implement measures and standards to regulate the entry of people, vehicles, supplies, and materials to the island consistent with the prevailing carrying capacity of the island,” she further said.
THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
Business and political observers here echoed the same concerns but are insistent that the failure to consistently implement initiatives and measures that would harmonize the sustainable development of Boracay lies within the local government unit.
“The failure to meet the desired goals of the national government for Boracay actually lies in the LGU’s incompetence. That root problem has been institutionalized, and it is the miserable failure of local governance for lack of political will,” said a resort executive who requested anonymity.
“The role of local politicians on Boracay is very crucial, but if we allow them to keep a pivotal role in managing the island, all the initiatives of the national government are bound to fail,” commented another resort owner who also requested not to be identified for fear of reprisal.
“It was actually the local government in the early 1990s that started all this mess. There were numerous decisions that polarized the mismanagement of the island. Add that to the lack of accountability among local officials and you have Boracay on its way to its doom. Look at what happened prior to the President’s cesspool declaration,” the resort owner added. ”Hopefully, this Authority will be able to manage the island differently, like a real manager, not the way politicians do."