Advertisements

Boracay closure not only for rehab, but also for public safety

Tomorrow (April 26, 2018), what tourists had known as the paradise island will be closed to visitors, at least for six months to allow rehabilitation work to be carried out without hindrance. This is bite-the-bullet treatment imposed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte after an inter-agency task force validated the rampant violations of environmental laws and the building code in the over-congested island. Many businessmen and workers on the island protested that this measure is too harsh. “Punish only those who broke the law,” many resort owners urged.

Boracay

Government workers get ready to provide assistance to displaced workers in Boracay when it is shut down to tourists starting April 26. (Inquirer photo by Nestor Burgos)

But it’s not about finding out who did wrong and limit the fall-out to them and their employees. Boracay Island is now an ICU patient from the environmental point of view. Pictures emerging from the island last week showed the green algae growth on the beaches has gone up, an indication that the coliform level in the water has reached a dangerous point.

Hence, this closure is not only about a clean-up; it’s also protecting the tourists from possible diseases caused by coliform bacteria. It’s a public health issue that should not be ignored in favor of protecting businessmen and workers from the economic losses the closure will bring.

Advertisements

Trillanes can’t find new issue with Duterte, questions order to shut down Boracay

PHILIPPINES-POLITICS-CRIME-RIGHTS-TRILLANES

Photo credit: Getty Images

 

Senator Antonio Trillanes must be struggling to stay relevant in Philippine political discourse. His unending tirades against President Rodrigo Duterte hardly stirred any reactions from a public gone weary on his loud-mouthed but otherwise empty rhetorics. No matter how explosive he might sound with his tirades, these are greeted with yawns from the people. That must really be frustrating for Trillanes. Nothing he has hurled against Mr. Duterte has landed a solid punch; not even a dent has been caused on the public image of the President.

This guy’s credibility level is sub-zero!

And so I was more amused than irritated when I came across a story that Trillanes has questioned the “real motive” in the President’s order to close down Boracay for six months and give it the breathing spell to recover from the environmental woes it is suffering. The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying:

“I will question the real motive kung bakit ipinasara ang Boracay. Hindi ako naniniwala na environmentalist ito si Mr. Duterte,” said Trillanes, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.

(I will question the real motive behind the closure of Boracay. I don’t believe that Mr. Duterte is an environmentalist.)

Well, Trillanes can question the motive of the President, and entertain himself. But this tough decision is a necessary step to stop the environmental degradation that has happened in Boracay over the years. The problem has been there for decades. To his credit, only President Duterte has shown the political will to tackle the bull by the horns. Now everybody is moving in concert to save Boracay. Years of official neglect are now being rectified.

A genuine public servant

boboy tupas with binky on bancaBeing congressman of the 5th District of Iloilo requires Boboy TupasFive to take long boat rides, often on choppy waters, to reach his constituents. On Sunday he took his wife Binky April Montesclaros Tupas to Isla Gigantes for the women’s month celebration and hold consultative meetings with the people. They were accompanied by Carles municipal mayor Ontoy Betita (in red shirt and flesh jacket).
Cong Boboy has shown genuine sincerity and dedication in the service of his constituents. He has also built his image brand of a simple, approachable and helpful public servant, most of the time wearing shorts and slippers when visiting far-flung barangays.

Sweetheart deal

Anytime soon — if it hasn’t happened yet — the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) will award the management contract for the soon-to-be-finished Iloilo Convention Center at the Iloilo Business Park of Megaworld Corp. in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

The management of the ICC, which is expected to be finished at a “reduced” budget of P679 million by late June this year, is one of the conditions set by Megaworld when it donated the 1.7-hectare lot to the Department of Tourism as site of the facility.

And guess who will be the ultimate contractor to manage the ICC?

No other than Megaworld Corporation.

It will be a classic case of Megaworld having its cake and getting to eat it, too. It donated land which it bought at P2,500 per sqm. between two of its five-star hotels, Richmonde Hotel and Marriot Inn. Its act of “generosity” will reap enormous returns because it will now have a convention center at no cost to the company.

This was made possible, of course, by its benefactor, Senate President Franklin Drilon, who packaged the transaction that would cost the national government a whooping P679 million! It is a scam that is not likely to be investigated in earnest until a new administration comes along. As it is, Drilon enjoys the full protection of the “matuwid na daan” President, Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

But no matter how Drilon tries to deodorize the transaction, it is so rotten that its stink could be smelled as far away as Boracay, where I am writing this piece. Quite a number of people I met here groaned in dismay when the conversation turned to the ICC. That’s because the construction boom in Boracay hasn’t abated, and businessmen here know what it costs to build huge hotels and resorts. One businessman told me, “With that amount, I could have built a convention center with a five-star hotel.”

Hence, Megaworld will get the better end of the bargain when the ICC is completed, one that will be the envy of other big developers like SM and Ayala. It gave DOT a design for the ICC and it is getting it at no cost. All it needs to do is making a semblance of giving government a share of the income. With the ICC, it can market its two five-star hotels as venue for large national and international conventions. It is being handed over by the DOT on a silver platter.

The graft cases I filed against Drilon et al are now in the final evaluation stage in the Ombudsman. Am I confident that the Ombudsman will hold the principal characters culpable for the litany of violations of the government procurement law and anti-graft and corrupt practices act? Ultimately, the Ombudsman will be compelled to charge them. But maybe not soon enough. The Ombudsman is pre-occupied with running after the Binays.

The facts, and the law, are on my side. That’s the reason I can confidently say the Ombudsman will ultimately indict the respondents. The violations of law and policy are so glaring, and the defenses put up by the respondents have been weak. Most of them attacked me for supposedly saying I had no evidence when I appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee four months ago. Unfortunately for them, it’s not what I said that matters to the Ombudsman. It’s the evidence on the record.

In this case, I was able to turn the table around and used their own documentary evidence against them. This is the beauty of the law. Innocent-looking documents submitted by your opponents can prove more lethal to them. I take great pride in waging this battle because I was pitted against the best lawyers in the country. For a non-lawyer, it flatters me to be able to cause seasoned lawyers consternation and great labor.

There’s nothing I can do to stop the transaction. Drilon, in his speech during the Dinagyang, arrogantly boasted that no Ilonggo can derail his pet project. Of course, it wasn’t the project that I intended to stop. It was the wanton plunder that took place in the guise of implementing the project.

I am now just awaiting the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City to set my arraignment on the four counts of libel that Drilon filed against me. Facing Drilon’s libel charges against me is the greatest challenge ever to confront me. But I am not afraid. I know I am in the right. In the end, truth will triumph, and justice will be mine.