Public eager to welcome ‘Better Boracay’

By Venus G. Villanueva –

People from all walks of life whose lives had been touched by Boracay Island, the country’s prime tourist destination, are all excited to welcome the “Better Boracay” when it finally re-opens on October 26, exactly six months after it was closed for rehabilitation.
For Cheryl Bonifacio, a receptionist of Casa Pilar Beach Resort, the re-opening of the island will mean normal operations of the establishment where she works, as during the closure, workers had to work on rotations just to remain employed – working for two months and resting for two months – so that others could also have their turn.
Casa Pilar Beach Resort, one of the pioneer establishments in the island owned by the Yaps of Malay, Aklan, was only one of a handful of resorts which remained open despite the island’s closure, having been found to be compliant with all the requirements imposed by the local government and concerned national government agencies even before the island was ordered closed.
Latest development is that Casa Pilar is one of the lucky 25 accommodation establishments initially identified by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to have complied with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with permits and clearances and will be accredited by the department.
This is in pursuit of the “No Compliance, No Opening” policy of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, and this also means that Casa Pilar, along with the 24 others, will be allowed to book visitors when Boracay re-opens.
Jessamay Paredes, working in the Human Resource Department of La Carmela Resort in Boracay, is also very excited with the news that Boracay will definitely re-open on October 26.  When Boracay was closed, La Carmela did not operate and opted to undergo rehabilitation and is targeting to be ready by the time the island re-opens.
La Carmela is not yet in the initial list of compliant establishments but hopes to be ready for everything by October 26.
For Alan Palma, Sr., Station Manager of Yes FM Boracay, the scheduled re-opening of Boracay makes him hopeful and excited. “The six months closure is so long – people had no income, there were no tourists, residents were inactive and all around us are scenes of rehabilitation and demolition,” Palma said.
He said he is hopeful that all the requirements imposed by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force will be met by the stakeholders and be delivered – so that both residents and tourists will truly face a “Better Boracay.” Palma said the people have learned their lesson brought by the Boracay closure and with the “Better Boracay” prospect, he also means that the change must not only be physical but behavioral – starting with workers, frontliners, everybody.
He is hoping that when Boracay re-opens, transport and other tourism-related sectors will no longer overcharge their fees and  influencial backers will be totally out. He said there should be a change in behavior of people within – they should not just think of income and other short-term benefits but a sustainable source of livelihood from a sustainable industry.
“We in Boracay are excited to savor the recovery of the island – we want to regain what was lost,” Palma said.
Jucel Francisco is one other person who is excited for the re-opening of Boracay.
He used to have a stall at the Boracay Talipapa, selling seafood produced and caught by Aklanon fishermen from Aklan’s various coastal towns. He has established a clientele from Boracay resorts but when Boracay was closed, he had to return to the mainland and looked for other means of supporting his young family.
Presently, he sells cooked food at a space provided by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) at the Provincial Capitol Compound, patronized by Provincial Capitol employees. The daily marketing activity which OPA organized for small entrepreneurs to sell their products, was partly intended for displaced Boracay vendors.
Across Francisco’s table where he displays his cooked food is his cousin Christine who sells siomai and other snacks. Christine worked as a front desk staff in Boracay prior to the island’s closure. When Boracay re-opens, Jucel will eventually go back to the island to try his luck once more.
Living in the island for years, he got qualified to avail of the P15,000 Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) grant from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)  for affected residents and workers, and he intends to make use of this grant as he makes another go at life in the “Better Boracay.”
Presently, the local government unit of Malay where Boracay belongs, the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, civic organizations, religious organizations, non-government oorganizations (NGOs) and many other groups are all for the sustainability of the island – once it re-opens.
The LGU, starting September 1, will ban the use of plastics in Malay and in Boracay Island. Through Municipal Ordinance No. 386,  series of 2018, the use of plastics will be banned in hotels, resorts, restaurants and establishments in accommodation business. These establishments will be encouraged to use alternative environment-friendly items like shampoo dispensers, liquid body soaps and conditioners.
This measure, authored by Sangguniang Bayan member Nenette Aguirre-Graf, complements the existing Municipal Ordinance No. 320, series of 2012, prohibiting the use of plastic bags on dry goods, regulating its utilization on wet goods and prohibiting use of styrofoam/styropor.
The DILG has advised resorts and hotels to be compliant first before booking tourists for re-opening.
The DENR is also asking the public to wait first for the release of the list of compliant and accredited hotels before booking for re-opening to avoid problems and inconvenience, at the same time imposing to all resorts the establishment of their own Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) or to join cluster groups for the purpose.
Big parties will no longer be allowed by the DOT at the beach fronts.
Wetlands are now being rehabilitated and cleaned by the DENR, with the help of Cash For Work (CFW) beneficiaries of the DSWD and Tulong Para Sa Ating Disadvantaged (TUPAD) workers, a program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Barely two months before Boracay reopens on October 26, the island now is truly a beehive of activities, excitement and sustainable plans – all hopeful to behold a “Better Boracay.”(JBG/VGV PIA 6 Aklan/Video:PCOO/M.Villarino)

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