Get Real

How was close-Boracay decision made?

How does this administration arrive at its decisions? Particularly, how did it arrive at the decision to close Boracay for a maximum of six months? Let’s review the circumstances leading to this decision, based on media reports.

Feb. 10:  President Duterte, in Davao, called Boracay a “cesspool.” He then gave Boracay six months to clean up (literally) its act, or he would close it. “I give you six months. Clean the goddamn thing,” he told Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. Apparently, he also told Cimatu to “destroy” establishments there that violated environmental and health regulations.


I don’t know when or if Mr. Duterte has visited the island since the start of his presidency (nothing on Google), but he was very graphic when he told his listeners, “You go into the water, it is smelly. Smell of what? Sh*t,” and worried that the impending environmental “disaster” and “tragedy” would drive out the visitors, who numbered over two million last year.

And apparently, there was “action agad,” because media reports dated barely three days after Mr. Duterte’s announcement were that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had served notices on 51 establishments, declaring them in violation of the Clean Water Act of 2004. The establishments, however, were not identified (what happened to name and shame?), and were given two months to comply. Also, Cimatu declared that 50-60 percent of the establishments on Boracay were compliant with the Clean Water Act.


Note that this all happened within four days of Mr. Duterte’s Boracay statements.

But waste disposal (the basis of Mr. Duterte’s “smelly water” remarks) is not the only thing wrong with Boracay. The place is rife with violations of environmental laws and easements. Buildings too close to the water lines, buildings without permits, destruction of forests for construction of buildings—you name it. To complicate matters, apparently there is a Supreme Court decision in 2008 declaring Boracay as government land. Everyone ignored it. At any rate, Boracay seemed not only to be above Supreme Court decisions; it ignored other laws, rules and regulations as well. With impunity.

March 5:  News reports were to the effect that in the Cabinet meeting on that day, the President was expected to decide whether to keep Boracay open to tourists, and if it was to close, he was to decide when the closure would start. Cimatu was set to give the President the report on the less-than-one-month compliance with Mr. Duterte’s directive.

On what basis was this decision to be made? One wonders. On Cimatu’s performance report?

Interestingly, after having marathon meetings, the Departments of Tourism, of Interior and Local Government, and of Environment and Natural Resources—had not even reached agreement (there is no indication of whether they consulted with the Boracay residents). Apparently, Eduardo Año (DILG) was the hawk: He wanted to close off the island immediately so the demolition of illegal structures could be done and the sewage problem could be resolved. Wanda Teo (DOT) wanted to until the habagat or monsoon season (May/June to September/October).  Cimatu at that point still had questions (good for him), and was not ready to make a recommendation.

Moreover, Cimatu was quoted as stressing (at that time) that it was “really impractical” to close the island to tourists immediately.

Thankfully, no decision was made at the Cabinet meeting.


April 4: The President ordered Boracay closed starting on April 26 for a “maximum” period of six months. Why and when did he change his mind?

Let us summarize: Mr. Duterte gave his officials (and Boracay) six months to solve the Boracay problem. He apparently changed his mind and shortened it to two months. He didn’t give them a chance. And then he says that closing the place for a maximum of six months will do it. How did he come to that conclusion? Do we have any evidence to show that we can do it? Nada.

One thing more:  In all these, we seem to forget Cimatu’s finding that 50-60 percent of the establishments on Boracay are compliant with the laws, etc. Then why are they being punished? Is accepting such enormous collateral damage part of the decision-making of this administration?

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TAGS: Boracay, Cesspool, Davao, Duterte
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