By Johnny Dayang
YESTERDAY lights snapped out in Boracay Island, one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Government says the island’s closure would only be for six months, but its long-term impact will have far serious social and economic ramifications.
Doubtless, brilliant minds in government can churn out impressive ideas quickly, but serious oversights and flaws can be expected from hasty decisions like the Boracay closure. More than just the ‘cesspool’ President Duterte described, Boracay is about a community that’s being forcibly displaced due mainly to governance failure by both national and local government officials.
Although stop-gap measures are being adopted to mitigate the adverse impact, more questions arise from the hasty closure decision. Even the much-ballyhooed IDs for residents are now corruption tainted.
Oversights. Government must explain in more precise terms the roles the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), Labor and Employment (DoLE) and Tourism (DoT) in the closure plan? Only the Departments of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) seem to have clear-cut restoration roles.
Tycoons. The announced plan to place Boracay under agrarian reform further adds to the confusion. The idea is politically enticing, but how will it raise revenue to help the island’s upkeep? Four Filipino tycoons and a Macao casino group have expressed interest in Boracay. The Ayala group is now there through its water system. Awaiting go-signal are taipans Lucio Tan, Andrew Tan, and Ramon Ang whose combined assets can transform Boracay into a truly world-class tourism heaven.
Government must exercise practical sense and foresight in addressing the concerns of Boracay, and must balance revenue generation and the island’s welfare. There seems really a need to constitute a Boracay Development Authority that will oversee and manage the island’s development. The body must be apolitical and must include responsible Malay town leaders.
Cooperation. Despite apprehensions, Boracay folks have assured government their cooperation and support. They are optimistic government will not renege on its promise to make Boracay liveable.
It is likewise imperative to prosecute those responsible for Boracay’s degradation. Media clamoured for years to stop the abuse and degradation of the island, but it took a strong presidential remark to compel state agencies to wake up.
Happily, tourist destinations nationwide are now being inspected to prevent another Boracay. The recent closure of Phuket Thailand for rehabilitation is an inspiration.