Boracay Shutdown: Where is the Master Plan?
IS THE government ready to do the job in Boracay?
If President Rodrigo Duterte’s words are any indication, then it is not. He himself said during a press briefing on April 9 that there is no master plan. “Master plan, wala akong master plan. Linisin ko muna ‘yan kasi agricultural area ‘yan,” Duterte said when asked by The Philippine Star reporter Edith Regalado on what would be done during the six-month closure (“TRANSCRIPT: Duterte admits he has no master plan for Boracay”).
Prepared or not, Boracay’s fate was sealed since Duterte called the famed tourist spot a “cesspool” on February 9. In the next two months, media reported that Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu conducted an audit soon after and reported that 50 to 60 percent of the commercial establishments on the island comply with the Clean Water Act. In the heat of talks to rehabilitate Boracay, reports of a planned construction of a casino in the island broke on March 20. And as summer began, the president ordered Boracay’s closure effective April 26. Boracay lost its 2018 peak season.
CMFR monitored reports by the top three broadsheets (Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, and Manila Bulletin) and primetime newscasts (ABS-CBN 2’s TV Patrol, GMA-7’s 24 Oras, TV5’s Aksyon and CNN Philippines’ News Night) from April 4 to 11.
Reports recorded the discussion of what government should do with Boracay which everyone agrees has become an environmental disaster. But news did not report on a government plan of action as there was none. Media reported the different activities that agencies set out to do. These noted the plight of workers who were fearful about their source of livelihood and of the businesses who would surely lose their projected revenues. Different officials talked about the demolition of illegal structures, drainage audit, construction of sewer lines as well as employment assistance for displaced workers.
Media followed politicians who echoed sentiments about the urgency of fixing Boracay and the need for a master plan. The scant reference to a lack of a comprehensive and concrete plan of action is a failure to call attention to the possible failure of policy implementation.
Opinion writers came forward to point out the danger of this piece-meal approach.
Columnist Peter Wallace in the Philippine Daily Inquirer asked: “Has a master plan of design been approved?” He pointed out: “Six months will speed by, and if the planning and follow-through implementation are not done, we’ll be no better-off than at the beginning.” Obviously, building the necessary infrastructure for sewage treatment was only a small part of the problem. (“That casino must go”).
In her column in the Inquirer on April 7, Solita Collas-Monsod traced the development of the policy to close Boracay and noted that even Cimatu said he was not yet ready to make a recommendation (“How was close-Boracay decision made?”).
Lack of Understanding
On April 9, Duterte, denying there was a plan to construct a casino, said he will declare the island a land reform area and that he would give the land to the farmers.
Rappler and InterAksyon published fact checks on April 10, referring to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Proclamation 1064 in 2006 declaring the island as forest land and agricultural land which was affirmed by the Supreme Court. (“Fact Check: Is Duterte right that Boracay is agricultural land?”, and “Duterte says Boracay will go to farmers, but is it agricultural land?”). An Inquirer report also echoed this (“There are no farms for land reform in Boracay”). The three pieces underscored that while it is partly agricultural, utilizing Boracay land for farming purposes may be bleak given the many structures.
On the issue of the planned casino, media reported that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) granted a provisional gaming license to Galaxy Entertainment, a Macau-based casino operator. Rappler also published a fact check which showed a Malacañang file photo of the president meeting with Lui Che-woo, chairman of Galaxy Entertainment (“Fact Check: Clueless about Boracay casino? Duterte discussed it with owners”).
Despite its sudden closure and the government’s vague approach, Boracay’s rehabilitation is in everyone’s best interest. Hopefully, the media will do what it has to do soon — question the lack of an overall plan and the need for a time plan for all the activities to take place, in concert and in coordination.
It will also help for media to cease reporting what public officials have to say just to get a piece of the publicity attached to the country’s world famous tourist destination.