BORACAY Random Notes By Noel Cabobos
World class. That is the classification that travelers, most of whom customers and tourism industry experts, around the world had labeled on Boracay.
Just lately, or shortly after the island reopened to visitors after a six-month rehabilitation, the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler picked Boracay and named it the 2019 Best Island in Asia.
It must be emphasized here that this award giving body, a luxury and lifestyle travel magazine published by Condé Nast based its result from a record of 600,000 voters weighing in on their favorite hotels, resorts and destinations around the globe.
Well, for many times in the past, Boracay has been a recipient of various international awards such as TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for World’s Best Beaches, Word’s Best Island Getaway by the Travel + Leisure magazine, and 4th Most Beautiful Island Beach on Earth by Most on the World, among others.
Certainly, everybody here is happy. Stakeholders are happy because the awards will show that compared with their counterparts from anywhere in the world, resorts services here are simply far better. Hotel crews perhaps are also smiling to the ears because the distinction depicts quality performance which eventually brought customer satisfaction.
Needless to say, our officials, are also ebullient because the citation denotes standard-setting excellence in terms of the island’s administration relative to customer satisfaction (never mind if this isn’t exactly the case). And that is simply a pogi point or so, they believe.
Of course, I am happy too. But partly, I am not. I cannot just sit back and be happy about it overwhelmingly in the face of some hard realities that are still troubling many of us in the island such as the local government’s laxity and incompetence in implementing laws and rules on the island, which even the DILG cannot deny.
Yes, political will was clearly out of sight and this, I think, was the main cause why the island was so messed up leading to the “cesspool” declaration of President Duterte and eventually paved way for the national government to take part in the rehabilitation and in implementing laws on discipline and order.
Look at our traffic, for instance. We are not gifted with a liberal stretch of road that one can see in world-class islands like Waikiki in Hawaii and Bali in Indonesia, but of course, we can troubleshoot this by improving the traffic system and having disciplined drivers in our midst.
Time and again, this corner has been emphasizing this despicable attitude of most drivers here, who, despite the narrow road in the island, are fond of overtaking and honking here and there. Pedestrians crossing the roads, are sometimes, not spared by these sanamagans who have no respect on traffic laws. Not to mention the fact that most, if not all of them, are notorious of overcharging passengers. In most cases, they refuse to take on local passengers in favor of tourists whom they can charge much more.
Acting Mayor Fromy Bautista recently launched a program “Bawal ang Pasaway sa Boracay” but I’m sorry to say that ceremonies for pogi point purposes will never solve that. It is more of sugarcoating thing. An integrated approach and strict implementation are needed to solve the list of mess that is now hounding the island. A ningas-cogon project, even though how much pabida you would make out of it, won’t change a thing.
What’s more? The street signs. We are so boastful of the world-class tag but what one can see are street signages which are sometimes obstruction themselves. Can’t we make some better ones, or at least some kind of a hanging world-class signboards which can really help ease traffic and not those that are protruding on the road contributing to the traffic dilemma?
The 1st class Municipality of Malay, with all its taxes and tourism gains, of course, has all the funds to provide one, but why can’t our local officials do something to solve this traffic mess?
Another thing, the number of visiting tourists to Boracay is now topped by Chinese and Koreans but the local government cannot even afford to upgrade informative signboards to cater to these tourists who are basically poor at understanding the English language. We have to consider the fact that nationals of these two countries abound on the island and are playing in the top 2 list among travelers in the past 5 or 7 years.
How about the traffic enforcers? I mean those traffic enforcers or the Municipal Auxiliary Police out there who should be taught how to prioritize their job over and above anything when they are on the field. Are they there to text a pal, call somebody, or direct the traffic? Seeing them texting or calling somebody, with all the grin and smiles of a Joker, while the traffic is happening right on their noses, is indeed a big problem.
You see, if you are powerless even in imposing discipline on simple matters just like the traffic problem, how could you be an effective one on bigger issues that are hounding Boracay like for example the environment?
Relative to the environment issue, well, it was actually a blessing for Boracay that the national government intervened which provided, in a way, a holistic approach to “reverse little by little” the effects to the environment of critical projects and massive development on the island.
The question, however, is how about its sustainability? There is actually a pending Bill both in the Senate and the House of Representatives pushing for the so-called BIDA or Boracay Island Development Authority, which, accordingly, aims to promote and accelerate sustainable development and growth of Boracay consistent with the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance.
I believe this is actually what the island needs. In the past years, for example, the too fast development and commercialization of Boracay was clearly not within the bounds of proper planning and zoning. It was too fast that our officials forgot that development doesn’t only involve architecture but also its immediate environment.
But don’t get me wrong here. I am not against any development for Boracay. I believe that progress cannot be stopped from taking place in a situation like our beloved island. But I believe too that any development must be holistic, carefully planned and done in an integrated approach to really benefit not only the tourists but one that is potential for even faster growths especially for the locals and the environment as well.
Hopefully, with the administration of the island under an Authority (Dear God, please!), Boracay will be truly worthy of the world-class label in the real sense of the word.
Well, if we fail this time around, or if we will allow the local government to continue in handling the administration of the island vice the government’s Task Force, we might lose more than the coastlines and sandcastles that we all like to keep dearly. We may even lose that description as the Philippine’s jewel and tourism pride. Or worse, we may lose the island that people from the world over would call paradise.
Yes, it’s now hightime to put a limit on the decision-making power of the local government of Malay. And I believe that an “Authority” is in order as change is indeed needed to move Boracay towards ecological sustainability. And most of all, an “Authority” that will provide a broader decision context in implementing a systematic management of the island.
And hopefully, it will be for good.
* * *
AFTERTHOUGHTS. I almost forgot to emphasize this point but the local government officials of Malay should somehow be reminded that Boracay is a multi-billion island resort. Stakeholders here have put in so much and they were not just some small-time in Boracay’s tourism industry.
I would say even that these investors are the very soul of Boracay tourism. They already have endured bad business days for good reason (and continue to do so with this coronavirus scare in our midst) and BIDA is the only remaining hope that something better is going to come out after all of this mess.
Hence, we cannot question why these people are becoming more and more agnostic about the future of the business in Boracay. It is because of the seemingly unfit and unstudied policies being implemented by the local government which are literally “too local in nature” and do not complement the design for competitive advantage in order to meet the “rising tide that lifts all boats” so to speak.
What can you expect, anyway, from a group of policymakers, majority of whom are not skillfully adept (spelled inutile) at drafting the needed measures to aid the business group hurdle the challenges of the times?
Probably, some (if not most) of these local policymakers are too busy working on their re-election bid, or maybe too engrossed onto something such as paying back the goodwill of some people who aided them in the past elections, which is why the will to construct better measures and in imposing stricter regulations are naturally put on the sidelines. Tsk…tsk…tsk!
Well, clearly, the case of Boracay is a proof of the local government’s ineptitude which is nothing short of national emergency.
Now, if we will allow the mistakes of the past to happen again, I’m sure we won’t expect the tourism and the local economy to be refreshed to the world-class standards that it truly deserves.
The only remaining sign wherein the business community in Boracay are pinning their hopes on, I guess, is the eventual take-over of an “Authority” for the tourism and economy of Boracay to accelerate and for them to make a huge rebound. (Comments are welcome at [email protected])