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Discrimination in paradise




FOR one reason or an­other, pundits call Bo­racay an island paradise. That sounds exhilarating, but the truth on the ground is a contradiction, espe­cially in terms of how small stakeholders are treated. The Boracay inter-agency task force, mandated to restore order in the island, seems biased in favor of big businesses only.

The complaints small stakeholders raise relate to the burden of unnecessary requirements demanded from them. Big businesses, with their financial cache, have the obvious upper hand in the scheme. So far, requirements compliance among businesses is a mere 30 percent. The backlog will certainly affect the ‘busi­ness as usual’ atmosphere in Boracay.

Instead of making life difficult for small entrepre­neurs, the task force should help them. As things stand presently, the unjustifie­d requirements may lead to the elimination of small entrepreneurs in Boracay.

Boracay’s woes go beyond the bucket list of documen­tary requirements demand­ed before entrepreneurs can operate business in the island. Issues like delayed cash assistance for affected residents, snail-pace road construction, non-filing of cases against environmental violators, allocation of reha­bilitation jobs, and improp­er garbage disposal have raised serious concerns. Bo­racay’s six-month temporary closure may actually doom it to perdition.

With urgency, the Boracay task force must revisit its master plan (or the lack of it) and see how effectively it has addressed the real is­sues that caused Boracay’s closure. Two months before its scheduled reopening, things do not look encour­aging.

When President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 53 creating the inter-agency task force, there was opti­mism the decision to reha­bilitate the island paradise would best serve the inter­ests of all stakeholders. To make the task all-encom­passing, the secretaries of Justice, Public Works, Social Welfare, Labor, and Trade were named to the task force with the secretaries of Environment and Natural Resources and Tourism as co-chairs. The rehabilitation was expected to be easier and faster.

Adding more spank to the roster of distinguished VIPs was the inclusion of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority chief operating officer, Phil­ippine National Police chief, the governor of Aklan, and mayor of Malay town as task force members.

The Boracay task force, however, seems to have overlooked the basic issues affecting the island’s small businesses and residents, something that looks more like a case of discrimination than a panacea.