While it is true that Acting Mayor Fromy Bautista is kinda embedded in a campaign purportedly to rid the streets of Boracay of illegal vehicles especially “habal-habal” it cannot be denied that, in some ways or another, he is condoning the presence of some illegal businesses which, according to many, have become notoriously shameful of their existence. I call them the Boracay ‘untouchables”.
Let us take the case of one infamous spa on the island registered under the name Boracay Lava Stone Spa.
If you are not aware of this particular spa, perhaps it will ring a bell if I tell you that it is situated right over a wetland in Brgy. Manoc-manoc particularly at the Salaver’s property popularly known as the Kingfisher’s farm cum hotel along Sitio Lugutan.
Again, for those not in the know, Boracay Island has nine wetlands which is comprised of 37.81 hectares. Eight of these are in forest lands, and one is in an area categorized as alienable and disposable. Only four have been cleared so far and are being developed into sustainable linear parks or eco-tourism areas with the help of billionaire companies operating on Boracay such as Energy Development Corp, the Lucio Tan Group, Gokongwei-led JG Summit Petrochemical Corp., San Miguel Corp and the Aboitiz Group. The most popular among them is the one situated fronting D’ Mall which is now being developed as a public park right at the heart of the island.
Four of which, however, are yet to be cleared of informal settlers and illegal structures, a job which is a mandate of the Boracay Task Force headed by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu under the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte through the strength of Executive Order 53.
Please know that Boracay wetlands serve as the “kidneys” of the island, filtering inland waste water before it flows to the sea. It helps prevent or minimize flooding by acting as a sponge for excess water. Their poor state, therefore, is considered one of the causes of flooding on the island especially when these were covered by greedy developers or had been used for the illegal dumping of wastewater and their solid waste.
In a report published by the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau, 548 structures have been cited encroaching on the wetlands, of which 455 are residential, and at least 85 percent of those living there returned to their places of origin during the shutdown of the island.
Going back to Boracay Lava Stone Spa, yes, the wetland wherein this spa is constructed is one of the wetlands that the Task Force is working on to reclaim in favor of the government. This is simply because, along with the other wetlands, it was obviously a result of unchecked development that had led to frequent flooding and pollution in the areas concerned for so many years.
But what boggles the mind of everyone is that why this particular spa continues to operate even for a fact that it is standing over the Kingfishers wetland, and worse, without the requisite of a business permit.
You see, Barangay Manoc-manoc turned down its application for a barangay clearance because, obviously again, it is standing on a ground prohibited by law, but how come it is operating today is totally strange. Really, really strange.
I was told that there was an instance when officials of Barangay Manoc-manoc had been prevented by its owner (who, reports said, is actually just a dummy of a Korean businessman) to go inside the facility when they tried to verify if it’s still on operation upon the complaints of some legitimate Spa operators.
Naturally after that, officials of Barangay Manoc-manoc reported the incident to the mayor’s office as well as its illegal operation, but, as the usual case on the island, nothing has been done so far and the issue died a natural death (or so, they believe).
Is inaction the natural order of the day in the Municipality of Malay? Let’s allow Acting Mayor Bautista to answer that.
In the meanwhile, let us revisit Municipal Ordinance No. 299 Series of 2005 otherwise known as “An Ordinance Setting Guidelines in the Operation of Saunas, Massage Parlors and Spas within the Municipal Jurisdiction of Malay.”
The rationale of the said Ordinance specifically expressed that since there is an increasing number of these businesses operating on the island, proper guidelines must therefore be set to protect the legitimate establishments from the illegal ones. And so it was made mandatory that all Spa businesses should first secure a Mayor’s Permit as well as an accreditation with the Department of Tourism and the Department of Health before it can legally commence its operation.
So now, legitimate Spa businesses are in quandary why this Boracay Lava Stone Spa remained untouchable and continues to operate its business despite all these violations. What a million peso question, indeed. And well, your guess, definitely, is as good as mine.
(Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org)