By Ellson Quismorio
Who was impressed with the much-anticipated reopening of the Philippines’ premiere tourist spot, Boracay? Certainly not Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate.
According to Zarate, the Boracay interagency task force missed the serious issues of the island during its six-month fix-her-upper.
“Boracay’s problem is a complex problem. It’s not just the water pollution where there is a lot of coliforms or the volume of garbage in the wetlands,” Zarate said, before asking, “Na-rehabilitate ba talaga nila yung buhay ng Boracay (Was life in Boracay truly rehabilitated?)”
“Kasi ang kanilang nakikitang problema lang ay on the surface, yung pang-turismo. Ang problema ng kabuhayan, ang problema sa kasiguruhan sa paninirahan ng mga residente doon, yan ang hindi nila natutugunan hanggang ngayon (The only problems they see are those on the surface, only for tourism. The problem on livelihood, the problem on security of residence among locals, those haven’t been addressed up to now),” the militant congressman pointed out.
Known the world over for its beautiful beaches, Boracay in Aklan was closed to tourists on April 26 by order of Malacañang. Its deterioration in past years, particularly the longstanding sewage disposal problem of the hundreds of commercial establishments there has led President Rodrigo Duterte to call Boracay “a cesspool.”
The “new and improved” Boracay was unveiled to the public amid much fanfare and celebration on October 26.
“[Some] 36,000 [local workers were displaced] when it was closed for six months,” said Zarate, who is part of the opposition in the House of Representatives.
“I doubt it that the environmental problems have been duly addressed. In six months you can’t solve that,” he further said.
Zarate also expressed worries over the alleged commercial takeover of the majority of Boracay’s lands. “Ang mga kalupaan ng Boracay ngayon kontrolado ng mga malalaking negosyo (Boracay’s lands are now controlled by big businesses).”
He once again raised concern over the supposed lack of the direction of the interagency task force.
“Hinahanap nga natin noon kung ano ba talaga yung blueprint, plano sa Boracay…Ano ba plano niyo para sa mamamayan doon (We’ve been looking for the real blueprint, the plan for Boracay…what are you planning for the people there)?
The task force includes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well as the Department of Public Works and Highways.