The largest open beach volleyball meet in the country, an annual event that attracts players from around the world, is the latest casualty on Boracay’s growing list of prohibited acts.
IS it a case of going too far for the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF)?
After banning lounge chairs and tables, drinking of alcohol, weddings, and sand castles on the main white beach of this popular resort island, even beach volleyball is now being prohibited as well.
In a stunning upset, the BIATF did not give a permit for the Boracay Beach Volleyball Open (BBVO), which was supposed to be held from November 15 to 17.
The tournament, which is the largest open beach volleyball meet in the country, is an annual event that attracts players from around the world. It would have spiked in about P1.5 million into the local economy in terms of food, hotel bookings and incidentals, BBVO organizers told the BusinessMirror. “A total of 170 rooms were booked [for the event],” they added.
There were 16 nations who participated in 2017, but due to the closure of Boracay in 2018, the event didn’t push through. The event has been held on the island since 2011.
According to the organizers’ post on their Facebook page, “It is with deep regret we inform you that BBVO has not been given the permission to hold this year’s event in Boracay. The BIATF headed by GM Natividad [Belarmino] has communicated this news to us only by phone and we are still awaiting the official response from their organization. We were informed since they don’t allow beach weddings anymore, we are therefore also not allowed to have events on the beach.”
In BBVO’s letter to Belarmino dated April 4, 2019, requesting for a permit for the event, organizer Dona Joy Santos assured: “Our setup will be minimal and will use existing structures plus utilize reusable materials like bamboo for the structures and sacks for our merchandise to ensure the least environmental impact on the island. We promise that the place will not be left in a mess and we will clear it of all litter before we leave.”
Tourism officials have yet to respond to the BusinessMirror’s queries as of press time. Sports tourism is one of the key activities being promoted by the Department of Tourism.
In a statement, Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jose Clemente III said, “The BBVO has been an annual event on the island that has attracted not only athletes but tourists. We are curious to know why the event will not be allowed to push through this year as advised by the BIATF, considering this is one of the prime events Boracay is known for.”
This is the second international sports competition that the BIATF failed to allow on Boracay, the so-called crown jewel of Philippine tourism. Last April, the annual Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival also did not happen.
The competition annually attracts paddlers from around the world, as well as various local associations of paddlers, and dragon boat enthusiasts. In 2018 the event had over 1,000 participants, and was fortunately held just a few days before the island was closed.
For Boracay’s reopening, the BIATF ordered the clearing of the main white beach of lounge chairs and tables in keeping with the 30-meter easement ordinance of the local government. It also banned weddings on the main beach, although select resorts are allowed to do so if the beach is within their property.
Drinking of alcoholic beverages on the beach is also not allowed because government managers said it would mess up the sand if drunken tourists vomit on it.
The building of sand castles was also prohibited because the BIATF said it disturbs the natural beach landscape. Videos of beach cops telling off children building sand castles in Boracay surfaced late last year, drawing flak from netizens. Even sand sculptors trying to earn a living from their works of art have been outlawed by government managers.
BIATF disallowed the use of fireworks last New Year’s Eve, also an annual celebration on the island, despite the fireworks usually being discharged from a boat anchored at a distance from the shore.
Ambulant peddlers, sidewalk vendors and massage therapists—all living off on the meager retail sales and tips they get from tourists—were the first to go when Boracay was reopened last October 26. Government managers said a space will be established for the vendors to restart their businesses, but that has yet to materialize.
Also, dogs were booted out from the beach, and are now viciously captured by operators of the local dog pound, as can be seen from the many videos posted online by concerned netizens. Most of the roamers are actually owned by locals who let their pets enjoy running free on the sand and playing in the water—one of the welcoming features of the island in the past.
The BIATF is chaired by Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu and co-chaired by Interior Secretary Eduardo S. Año and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat.
President Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay for six months from April 26, saying there is a need to rehabilitate the island. Many improvements are still ongoing, such as road construction and drainage improvement. A recent typhoon resulted in flooding of the island even in places which didn’t use to flood because drainage pipes had yet to be connected.