By Johnny Dayang
AN interesting query raised outside the recent congressional hearing in Boracay is the issue of who should benefit from the rehabilitation of the island-paradise.
For decades the environmental degradation that’s consuming Boracay Island can be attributed to a host of conveniently overlooked factors, many of which were due to bureaucratic entanglements.
The rush now to save Boracay came about after President Rodrigo Duterte raised the caveat to either close or declare the island in a state of calamity. The “garapality” of corruption consuming the island has surely irked the President who sees the need to save the tourist destination from further degradation.
Expectedly, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources marshalled its resources to belatedly identify violators, while the Senate took the extra mile in bringing stakeholders to the table and dissect its pressing issues in a public hearing right in the island. The initial inquiry, however, focused mainly on corporate players who took Boracay’s long-term viability for granted. The concerns of small entrepreneurs did not get as much importance in the inquiry.
For certain, negligent government players were pinpointed to have used deceit and exploitative means in allowing businesses in Boracay. The issue of water also got special focus. For instance, Boracay Island Water Corp. (BIWC) has been accused of imposing excessive water charges. The newly-acquired Boracay Tubig of Lucio Tan, on the other hand, is expected to rationalize water consumption costs. Both waterservice systems, however, must clearly delineate their jurisdictions and assume active responsibilities in keeping Boracay clean by installing efficient water-treatment facilities.
Saving Boracay from destruction goes beyond cleaning the dumps and collecting trash from the shorelines, and requires a comprehensive strategic plan. The plan may consider the idea of connecting Kalibo where there is an international airport, to Boracay via fast crafts to lighten the Caticlan Airport’s load which has already made significant headway. Equally important is the proposal to build a bridge linking Boracay to mainland Aklan.
Likewise welcomed and anticipated is the plan to widen Boracay’s existing roads. Some sectors also propose strict implementation of a sound sidewalk management system to make sure the widened roads do not become parking areas overnight.
It is imperative to save Boracay. The rescue strategy, however, must not lose sight of the interest of small players, the livelihood of residents, and the preservation of the island’s unique cultural heritage.