House panel OKs creation of 'investment-driven' Boracay dev't authority

Published June 15, 2021, 6:03 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The House Committees on Government Enterprises and on Local Government on approved on Tuesday, June 15, the proposed establishment of a “Boracay Island Development Authority” or BIDA, despite the reservation of local government executives, some lawmakers, and Cabinet agencies.

Boracay Island (Tara Yap/MANILA BULLETIN File Photo)

Government enterprises and privatization committee chairman and Parañaque City Representative Eric Olivares said the approval was in response to President Duterte’s call for the creation of a government body to handle the development and preservation of the world-famous tourist destination during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July, 2020.

The unnumbered bill identifies the BIDA as a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC), which would be given vast authority over the development of Boracay. Stakeholders initially planned and supported the creation of a regulatory body for the island’s environmental protection.

ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, one of the authors of the measure who was tasked to consolidate similar bills on the matter, insisted on the passage of the bill as he told Aklan officials and stakeholders that the development of the Boracay Island concerns not only them.

“Ang Boracay ay hindi lang sa mga taga-Aklan, kung hindi sa ating mga Filipino. Itong Boracay na ito napalaki ng itinulong sa ating bansa (Boracay is not owned by Aklan residents, but all of us Filipinos. Boracay has contributed a lot to our country),” Yap said.

Yap said it was Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, the President’s son, who thought of converting the BIDA as a GOCC.

“Naniniwala po ako, ‘pag naging GOCC ‘to gaganda po ang Boracay (I believe that if this becomes a GOCC, Boracay will be better),” Yap maintained.

Opposed to the BIDA as a GOCC are local officials and district representatives of Aklan province, as well member-agencies of the Boracay Interagency Task Force (BIATF) formed by the President to rehabilitate the island.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) director and BIATF general manager Natividad Berdardino said what Boracay needs is a regulatory body that will prevent the repeat of “overtourism” and “overdevelopment”, which caused the island being branded as a “cesspool” by Duterte.

“What we need in terms of sustaining the rehabilitation and the ecological sustainability of the island is a regulatory body, instead of a GOCC, which we think, is more on the side of investment priorities,” Bernardino said.

“There is no more space for further investments and the development,” she also stressed, noting that current occupants in the island already exceed its carrying capacity.

Department of Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing backed this position, saying BIDA was intended to be a long-term solution for managing and ensuring that the “environment will not be degraded and preserved for sustainable tourism.”

It is “not intended for it to develop a new Boracay but preserve its existing situation”, Densing said.

Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores said the people of the province “believe that the proposed BIDA encroaches, diminishes or even divests the constitutionally and legally vested powers of local government units, specifically its local autonomy, power to generate and apply resources, and just share to national taxes.”

Economic managers also opposed the BIDA bill, saying, among others, that the creation of the body will be a redundancy of government functions and will run counter to the Duterte administration’s policy of streamlining the bureacracy.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) also stressed that the creation of another GOCC, funded thru the annual nation budget, may not be economically viable. He noted the implementation of the Mandanas ruling which increases the share of LGUs in national taxes and will effectively decrease the already “limited fiscal resources” of the national government.

Still, Yap said that those who oppose the bill could just raise their reservations to the Senate, which has also yet to pass a counterpart measure.