Binay on Boracay: Who's truly in charge?

By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Nancy Binay has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint a person who would directly be in charge of the ongoing rehabilitation in Boracay Island.

Senator Nancy Binay (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook page / AMNIAL BULLETIN) Senator Nancy Binay
(Senate of the Philippines official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Binay made the call after a Senate hearing revealed that misunderstandings among concerned government agencies are causing delays on the rehabilitation programs on the popular tourist spot which Duterte had ordered to be closed temporarily to visitors.

The senator noted that Boracay residents are confused as to who is in charge on the ground noting that Department of Environment (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu, who chairs Task Force Boracay, is only one of the other government officials who are also given tasks in the clean up and rehabilitation project.

The inter-agency rehabilitation task force had been formed by the President through an executive order.

“Sino yung on top of everything? We have Sec. Cimatu who is in charge of Task Force Boracay pero inter-agency council lang ito. Sino ba ang may final say sa mga bagay-bagay?” Binay asked.

She said the local government of Malay still continues to function but the locals are clueless which of the national agencies stationed in the island is heading the current setup.

“We need a person who has the final say at magdedesisyon kapag nagkaroon na ng aberya lalo na't may mga issue pala sa pagitan ng ahensiya mismo ng pamahalaan, (and who make a decision if something goes wrong especially since the agencies themselves are faced with issues),” she pointed out.

During a recent Senate hearing, it was revealed that both the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) are claiming to have regulatory powers over water concessionaires in the area.

Binay said this unfortunately resulted in the confusion and the subsequent delay of the division of the island between water utilities.

Because of this, Binay said she supports calls to create a centralized agency to consolidate authority and oversee Boracay rehablitation projects.

“There is a proposal to create a Boracay Development Authority that will be tasked to regulate all developments in the island and protect its environmental integrity. We can use the existing inter-agency task force to kick start the initiative and perhaps adopt the Intramuros template in creating this agency,” she said.

“However, it is also important that we give it the necessary administrative powers to exercise its mandate," she noted.

Binay said she would push for a land-use management framework tailored-fit to the innovative management techniques necessary for governing Boracay as a protected landscape.

At the same time, the lawmaker asked the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to fast track the completion of its medium-term development and physical framework plan to rehabilitate Boracay Island.

"We hope NEDA would be able to come up with a plan even before October so we can assess and see how its comprehensive development plan would integrate physical, environmental, social, economic and institutional plans of government agencies in charge of Boracay rehab,” she said.

Likewise, she called on the government agencies tasked in the island's rehabilitation to involve local stakeholders, non-government organizations (NGOs) and indigenous peoples (IPs) in the critical stages of planning.

“For the Boracay development plan to be smoothly implemented, kailangan gawin itong isang kolektibong kontribusyon ng lahat ng sector (it must be a collective contribution of all sectors),” she said.

“In the context of a multi-sectoral and participatory framework, we are assured that all stakeholders will affirm their commitment to protect Boracay,” Binay stressed.

During the Senate hearing, government officials expressed the possibility of having a “soft opening” prior to the six months period the President has prescribed.

But Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, noted that the inter-agency had not even resolved the issue on proper wastewater disposal. The two water concessionaires in the area –Boracay Island Water Company Inc. and Boracay Tubi System, Inc. have yet to divide the area on which they would supply water to and dispose wastewater from.

“If you cannot resolve this issue, how can you open in six months?” Villar pointed out.

It was Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon who earlier pushed for the creation of a Boracay Island Council that would be tasked to manage, develop, regulate and maintain the island.

Drilon, in filing Senate Bill No. 1765 said the creation of a single body that would be similar to the SBMA would help fast track Boracay’s reformation.

“Boracay contributes so much in the development of our country particularly in the field of tourism and yet, there is not one single body in-charge of Boracay,” Drilon said.

“We may want to take a serious look at consolidating the authority of watching over Boracay to a centralized agency which will assume many of the powers agencies are exercising right now,” he pointed out.

“There is simply no one managing Boracay. Marami pong cook, kusinero, iyong pagkain, lumalabas na masama ang lasa, (There were many cooks and they just spoiled the food),” Drilon further lamented.