The pattern in Marawi and Boracay
Many moons ago, I made the obligatory trip to Boracay with the preconceived notion of an “island paradise.” It was raining cats and dogs when I reached the Caticlan jetty. Disembarking on the island, I was dropped off at the so-called D’Mall d’Boracay, the main shopping center that teemed with boutiques and restaurants galore.
D’Mall is also part of where the action is at night for its hodgepodge of bars. But that afternoon when I arrived, D’Mall had also one feature not necessarily delightful —it was under water from the profuse downpour. The flood was knee-deep and the waters were fetid.
I immediately realized I was transported not to an island paradise but to the usual slapdash built-up spaces one regularly sees in any Philippine city. Behind the chic watering holes and posh hotels, the Boracay landscape was filled with shantytowns, some built on stilts along its wetlands where residents waded through the dark water that was both stagnant and putrid.
The scene, of course, left me unimpressed, to say the least. Why are the poor swarming on an island that made Philippine tourism world-famous? The answer needs no rocket scientist — it is because we have a governance system that does not address poverty. We have a system that does not address homelessness. Our society is far from an equal-opportunity one.
The entry of the Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment casino — which President Duterte had denied but which turned out to be a lie —exactly epitomizes the Duterte approach and all political leaders before him — there is a cesspool alright, but the solution given hardly addresses it because there is no comprehensive master plan.
Duterte, after all, is no reformist. He is simply a speaker who tries to be a firebrand to add garnish to the spin that he wants change. Six months from now, you can bet that those who live in Boracay’s squalor will continue to wade through those stinking waters in the isle’s wetlands.
The pattern has by now become familiar. The perpetually disoriented Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, whose bantam experience only lies with local Davao tours, revealed on television that like Marawi, the architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. would spearhead the Boracay makeover.
Exactly what that means remains vague but the pattern is as clear as day. Magnify a problem that exists — Islamic State in Marawi, a cesspool in Boracay — by declaring a blanket decision that does not take into account all sectors of the multiple stakeholders. In the end, every stakeholder is treated as a culprit. The decision mesmerizes. Hail, Duterte. But when examined closely, there is no master plan.
One cannot imagine now the nightmare that Boracay’s closure will have on thousands of formal and informal workers. Let us not even quantify the end of regular flights to and from Caticlan and Kalibo airports. The displacement will be massive. How different is that from Marawi’s internally displaced families who continue to languish? No difference.
Where human dignity — which includes the dignity of labor — is involved, those in governance must consider the condition of the human actors involved. It is a duty and an imperative, not a choice like the way Duterte kowtows to the interests of big business and his Chinese mandarins.
The poor do not have a place in the Duterte regime. He fashions himself as a reformist by means of rhetorical amusement, just like any traditional politician. He is just like the “Dilawans” before him. He is no different from any stage entertainer. But he can probably learn from the late Brazilian bishop Dom Helder Camara who alluded to the most destitute of society: “Society calls me an eyesore, a beggar and a parasite. But what do you call a society that has reduced me to this state?”
Duterte does not rule that way. By now, the Duterte deportment is familiar: throw a tantrum (applause), and then bring the house down just to kill a rat. Applaud and be an idiot.
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