Aklan leaders defiant against Duterte’s ‘priority’ BIDA Bill

AKLAN Vice Governor “Boy” Quimpo and Board Member Immanuel Sodusta's respective Facebook posts/INews (Photos: Facebook)

BORACAY ISLAND, Malay, Aklan–Politicians here are up in arms against the BIDA Bill, a measure that is part of the government’s efforts to rehabilitate Boracay and classified by President Duterte as “important” in his 5th State of the Nation Address in July last year.

In attacking the proposed measure, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Aklan recently passed a resolution opposing the BIDA Bill, citing that the proposed measure runs contrary to the Constitution and in violation of the Local Government Code.

The SP’s resolution was in support of the position of the Malay LGU, which earlier passed a resolution opposing the measure, stating that the BIDA Bill “seeks to divide the territory of the Municipality of Malay, deny the Malaynons and Boracaynons of their properties, undermine Malay’s constitutionally-guaranteed local autonomy, and render useless the concept of decentralization, as well as make the devolution of powers to the local government a farce.”

The SP and Malay LGU positions are backed by Aklan 1st District Congressman Carlito Marquez, who has said in various radio interviews that the mandate of the Constitution for Congress to observe the policy of decentralization and local autonomy will be undermined if the BIDA Bill is passed as it is.

Aklan’s 2nd District Congressman Carlito Marquez: In favor of BIDA Bill but….

“Although I am in favor of BIDA, I am against the provision, specifically Section 6, stating that the Authority shall be in charge of undertaking and regulating the establishment, operation, and maintenance of utilities and other infrastructures in the island because it will run contrary to the devolution of powers as provided for by the Local government Code,” he underscored.

To note, while Marquez is one of the co-authors of the bill filed by Congressman Duterte, he has also filed his own version of the BIDA Bill.

“NO TO BIDA!” CAMPAIGN

Some of the signatories to the opposition even vented their ire online and published posts hashtagged “No to BIDA”, referring to House Bill 6214, whose main author is presidential son and Davao city congressman Paolo Duterte.

Starting the online campaign was Aklan Vice Governor “Boy” Quimpo, who posted on his Facebook Account on February 9 a photo of himself with the words “NO2BIDA!” prominently displayed across the image.

“Barangays Manoc-Manoc, Balabag, and Yapak in Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan and Barangay Caticlan in mainland Malay, Aklan are already under an ‘AUTHORITY’. It’s called the LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF MALAY, PROVINCE OF AKLAN headed by duly elected local officials!” Quimpo stated in the accompanying post.

On the same day, Board Member Immanuel Sodusta, posted the following note hashtagged #NOTOBIDA, “Boracay is not just tourism, it is a community with residents long before the tourists came. Ease the restrictions to (sic) the residents. Indi dapat pag pakabudlayan ro mga tawo [The people should not be burdened].”

SK Representative and ex-officio councilor of Malay Christine Hope Pagsuguiron also assailed the proposed bill online, calling it a measure that is “scary and prone to abuse”. She said the bill is “not pro-Boracaynon and Malaynon” since the proposed authority will be given so much powers including the launching of projects such as reclamation and land classification.

For his part, Malay Councilor Junthir Flores, in opposing the BIDA Bill, posted, “Pinalangga kong Isla BORACAY!!! Amun ara. No to BIDA!” (My beloved Boracay!!! This is ours. No to BIDA!).

He also posted on his timeline a photo of Board Member Essel Flores, who is also the regional chairman of the Provincial Board Members League of the Philippines  (PBMLP), with an imposing “No to BIDA”.

A screenshot of SK Representative and ex-officio councilor of Malay Christine Hope Pagsuguiron’s Facebook post/INews
MALAY Councilors Junthir Flores (main photo) and Esel Flores (inset) also posted their opposition to the BIDA bill./INews (Photos: Facebook)

SENATE VERSIONS

Co-authored by Representatives Eric Yap, Sandro Gonzalez, Jose Teves, Kristine Singson-Meehan, and 180 other congressman all over the country, the bill has already been approved in Congress. In the Senate, two BIDA Bills authored by Senators Franklin Drilon (Senate Bill No. 17) and Cynthia Villar (Senate Bill No. 14) are currently undergoing legislative proceedings.

The two senators joined the bandwagon in pushing for the creation of an Authority for Boracay which they said would sustain the rehabilitation efforts needed to promote and accelerate the sustainable development and balanced growth of the island.

Senators Franklin Drilon and Cynthia Villar

In his version, Senator Drilon emphasized the ‘urgent’ creation of BIDA ‘to put things in order’ on the island.

“Being from the region, I will say it bluntly that Boracay is a picture of a failure of government. To be more specific, failure of local governance,” Drilon, an Ilonggo senator, said.

He said all the problems and abuses on the island right now can be traced to the failure of the local governance.

“Boracay is a showcase of what local governance should not be. The environment has been abused. Everything has been abused,” Drilon said as he pushed for BIDA to “regulate the use of the island and its resources and at the same time work on the much-needed management and development of this national treasure”.

For her part, Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change, in proposing her version, said that despite the existence of national laws, Boracay’s environment continues to ‘gravely suffer from degradation’ which she attributed to the ‘lackluster execution’ in the local level.

“The apathetic concern for the environment amidst the thriving development in Boracay along with the weak implementation of environmental laws by the authorities eventually led to a polluted Boracay Island,” she stressed.

She said that aside from formulating and implementing short and long-term strategies for the island’s eco-tourism development, the Authority should also establish a graded system of protection and development control over the whole of Boracay Island as well as adopt standards for environmental pollution control of all the areas within its territory.

“BIDA has to implement measures and standards to regulate the entry of people, vehicles, supplies, and materials to the island consistent with the prevailing carrying capacity of the island,” she further said.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

Business and political observers in Boracay echoed the same concerns emphasizing that the failure to consistently implement initiatives and measures that would harmonize the sustainable development of Boracay lies within the local government unit.

“The failure to meet the desired goals of the national government for Boracay actually lies in the LGU’s incompetence. That root problem has been institutionalized, and it is the miserable failure of local governance for lack of political will,” said a resort executive who requested anonymity.

“The role of local politicians on Boracay is very crucial, but if we allow them to keep a pivotal role in managing the island, all the initiatives of the national government are bound to fail,” commented another resort owner who also requested not to be identified for fear of reprisal.

“It was actually the local government in the early 1990s that started all this mess. There were numerous decisions that polarized the mismanagement of the island. Add that to the lack of accountability among local officials and you have Boracay on its way to its doom. Look at what happened prior to the President’s cesspool declaration,” the resort owner added. ”Hopefully, this Authority will be able to manage the island differently, like a real manager, not the way politicians do.”

“BEHIND THE SCENE”

The man behind the “No To BIDA Bill” campaign?

Although he has not said anything, Aklan 2nd District Congressman Teodorico Haresco is being pinned down by some Boracay stakeholders and political pundits in Aklan as the one behind the campaign to smear the priority bill of the president.

Reports said that prior to the anti-BIDA campaign, the solon was very busy in holding meetings with various local officials of Malay regarding the state of the island if BIDA will be approved by the President.

Haresco was not immediately available for comment,but in a Facebook post moments ago, Haresco posted that what he is against with is the new version of the bill.

“CONG. TED “NONONG” HARESCO and Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores, together with the local officials of Aklan Province, FULLY SUPPORT THE ORIGINAL BIDA version of CONG. PULONG DUTERTE, and OBJECTS the new amendments to the Bill for a corporate takeover of Boracay Island and related areas, including two barangays of Malay and Nabas. The new amendments grant monopoly of basic utilities and services, including pest control, and divests LGUs the powers of taxation, collection of fees, and other regulatory functions which are clear and absolute VIOLATIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION AND THE 1991 LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE,” stated his post.

Photo grab of Teodorico “Nonong” T Haresco, Jr’s Page

Sometime in October last year, Haresco, in a video that circulated online, was caught lambasting his fellow congressmen who supported the proposed BIDA version of the young Duterte and assailed them for “sucking up to the President”.

He also said that Congressman Paolo Duterte was just showing off to the President, stating, “Well, Pulong has to follow the President. It’s his dad, right? So he needs to show off to his father that he’s working.”

“Sa Congress ‘pag sinabi ng President gusto ko ng ganito, within one hour lahat yan gusto magtsu-tsu kay President, magpa-file sila tapos susulat sila sa President telling him, ‘Boss, sinunod ko ang sinabi mo’ [It has been the practice in Congress that if the President wants something, expect within an hour that all will do it. Then they will write the President to tell him, ‘Boss, I’ve done what you’ve asked’],” he said.

“Kanya-kanyang gimmick lang yan [It’s to-each-his-own gimmick],” he adds.

The young Duterte, in response, called on Haresco to stop politicizing the proposed measure but rather “(to) do the right thing by helping to work on a more pragmatic approach to ensure a sustainable Boracay.”

“Our strategic choice is to embrace and support measures that will ensure the sustainable development of Boracay. Huwag po sana natin i-pulitika ito [Let us not politicize it]. Instead, let us work together to protect the beauty of Boracay Island and further promote it as a top international tourist destination,” he appealed, even as he emphasized that he filed the bill to create a special body that will work with national agencies and local government units to protect the island, its people, and its environment.”

“Ginawa ko po ito hindi bilang anak ng Presidente, pero bilang congressman na may concern sa kapakanan ng mga kababayan natin sa Boracay na humihingi ng tulong. Wala po akong financial interest sa Boracay. Ang BIDA bill po ay ginawa para sa Boracay Island at para sa lahat ng tao [I am not doing this as the President’s son; I am doing it as a congressman who is concerned for the well-being of our countrymen in Boracay who are asking for help. I have no financial interest in Boracay. The BIDA bill was crafted for Boracay and for all].”

“As a legislator, it is my duty and responsibility na tulungan yung mga humihingi ng tulong [As a legislator, it is my duty and responsibility to help those who ask for it]. I hope my fellow lawmakers will recognize me as a colleague and as a fellow legislator, not merely as the son of the President,” he stated.

“I am just hoping that Congressman Haresco won’t be drowned out by politics. We may not be from Boracay but we are equally concerned about its sustainability as well as the welfare of the stakeholders and its people,” he underscored.

Despite the opposition by local politicians, though, both the Boracay Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI-Boracay) and Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI), considered the biggest association representing the community on this island, have expressed their support to the proposed measure.

PCCI-Boracay, however, said it prefers that management and tourism professionals be at the helm of the Authority to ensure the island’s economic development as well as sustainable tourism and environment.

“The handling of the affairs and management of the island before it was declared a cesspool by the President should now be a lesson learned for all of us. It’s about time that the management is handled by professionals. It is important that the administrator-to-be understands the rough-and-tumble of business tourism because Boracay is a multi-billion dollar industry, and we cannot just leave it to individuals of questionable character and interests,” the PPCI said, adding, “Boracay is a brand so it should be protected and run by people with brilliant minds who know exactly what they are doing to ensure sustainable tourism development as well as inspire the tourism stakeholders to take the necessary action in order to accelerate the process towards a more sustainable tourism sector by aligning policies, business operations, and investments.”

The Boracay Foundation, for its part, said it supports the bill as it “shall place Boracay Island under a management that will truly promote and accelerate sustainable development and growth consistent with the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance and is truly something to look forward to.”

“We, the Board of Trustees, together with our members and the stakeholders of Boracay, strongly believe that only through proper governance and oversight management can we prevent the mismanagement of the island, something that led to its closure in 2018,” it said in a statement./INews

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