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Planning Process J.D.O.



Name: O’YEK, John David O.

Boracay: A Paradise Lost

For us Filipinos, one mention of the word “Boracay” or “Bora” for short will instantly
transport our thoughts to time in an island paradise; with fresh seafood, a party place, and a
getaway from the hustles and bustles of the city. In fact, it is almost synonymous for us that
whenever we say “Tara, Bora tayo” it means let’s have a vacation to a paradise. Boracay
Island is a part of Aklan in Region VI belonging to the West Visayas island group. It can be
accessed through Kalibo International Airport and Caticlan Airport. You then have to travel by
banca to the island itself. Once you reach the island, tricycle and walking are the main modes
of transportation, although you can see some pedicabs around. The island is shaped like a
dog bone with a total land area of 10.32 square kilometers. Although Boracay has several
beaches, it is most famous for its “White Beach” stretching about four kilometers long of white
sand lined with resorts, hotels and restaurants. According to, tourism
in Boracay started to flourish in 1978 when a German writer-traveler wrote a book about the
Philippines focusing on detailed history and description of Boracay. It was introduced to the
world when the book was published around Europe, and since then the island has been known
to European nationals especially those from Belgium, Bavaria, Switzerland, Spain and Austria.

I have been in Boracay for several times. My first personal encounter with Boracay
was when my sister’s family was visiting from the US sometime around 2005. We decided to
book a flight to Boracay as it was a must go destination. We landed at Kalibo Airport in Aklan
and had to travel three hours by bus to the ferry terminal to ride the banca traversing to the
island. Upon arriving Boracay, it dawned on me the hype about this island. There were
moderate developments with lots of trees, open space and fresh air. At the shoreline, powdery
white sand you can walk barefoot on. The turquoise water was so clear you can actually see
the bottom, though there are some algae and seaweeds because it was Habagat season.
Fresh live seafood at reasonable prices were available everywhere. At night time, it turns into
a place where people from different places gather together and mingle. It was a truly a vacation
worth remembering.

The next time I heard about boracay was when someone close to Manny Pacquiao
allegedly built some unwanted structures along Station 1 coast line which is classified as a no-
built zone. There are rules governing shorelines where there should be proper setback from
the shore. They were then demolished with TV live feed. I started to wonder, if it was illegal
how were they even able to get them built in the first place? Are there no agency monitoring
whether rules are being followed? If there is, have they been very lenient in implementing the

In the middle of last year, I got a call from a developer who wants to develop their
property into a resort hotel. Interested to go back to see how the island has develop in the
span of several years, together with my office staffs, we were given plane tickets to the island
to look at the site and survey the island. This time, we landed on Caticlan Airport and were
picked up by their airport shuttle. Within a few minutes, we reached the terminal to ride the
banca to the island. Indeed, progress has been made in terms of infrastructure to facilitate
movement to the island. Upon reaching the island, we noticed how much denser it is.
Developments are being built abutting each other. At night, we got a chance to stroll the White
Beach shore; lined with resorts, hotels, bars, restaurants and other commercial
establishments. The darkness of the night was compensated by the bright lights and loud
noises resonating from everywhere. The innocence of the island has been taken over by
commerce. You can even see Mcdonald’s and Jollibee branches abound on the island. The
whole island has turn into a mini city. What you see in the city, you can see it there. Undeniably,
the island has lost its unique charm.

Upon talking with the developer regarding the project, we at once insisted that if we
were to take on the project, we need to follow all the environmental rules governing the
development. They mentioned such rules as 60% open space which should be strictly
followed. However due to the greed of the island officials, they have came up with resolutions
revising the height limits from 5 storeys to now 6 storeys or 20 meters. The local officials
themselves are bending their own rules. Although they have clear rules of not disposing raw
sewage directly to the beach. Enforcement and proper implementation of such environmental
policies were apparently disregarded.

Having seen boracay at two different period, I can fully understand all the distasteful
comparisons being made today. Although there are rules governing the developments, local
officials and private sectors seem to find ways to circumvent around them. Are we giving up
our principles just to achieve economic progress at the expense of our environment? As
planners, we need to put our foot down that if we are to tackle the project, we need to comply
with all the standard procedures required in the process of development.

Last December, Boracay was badly hit by typhoon Urduja. The whole island was
flooded, 90% of the road were almost unpassable. According to the locals, it wasn’t a usual
event for the island to experience massive flooding, and overdevelopment and lack of proper
drainage is to blame. Usually, small islands like Bora have the natural ability to disperse
rainwater back to the sea in short period of time. But this hasn’t been the case, so clearly there
was a mistake here. Is this the way of nature to get back to us?

Just recently, President Duterte threatened to shut down the whole island of boracay
because it has become a cesspool. Huge establishments keep disposing their waste water
directly to the beach without passing through sewage treatment plant. He then ordered DENR
Chief Roy Cimatu to clean up the whole island in just 6 months or repercussions will take
place. According to the news presented by Rappler, Roy Cimatu proposed the creation of
“national body” to manage Boracay instead of leaving it to the local government. This national
body aims to monitor existing establishments if they are in compliance with environmental
policies especially with proper sewage disposal. It will also oversee future developments and
assess its environmental implications. Even before, there were already news about the slow
destruction of the island, but not much attention has been laid out. Irresponsibility and
ignorance from government officials, private sectors, local individuals and tourists are
observed to contribute to the island’s deterioration. People have focused too much on income
and greed that they started to neglect the environment.

Has boracay reached its peak and now on its decline? Are we killing the goose that
lays the golden egg? For me, I feel there is still hope. There are government rules on all
aspects of the environment. The government needs to strictly make sure all rules are strictly
complied by the private sectors, hold further developments until existing ones complied. All
permits should be complied before developers are given the go signal to start a project.
Basically, corruption must be stopped. The three sectors of society; the government, private
sectors and civil society, should work hand in hand to save the island of Boracay. It must be a
group effort that these sectors must respond to their responsibilities spontaneously – where
the government must enforce and implement, the private sectors must comply, and the civil
society – including regional planners, must be aware of all the activities and repercussions it
could create to the overall island impact. Only then can this paradise regain its luster and
restore its value.



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