BIZ  COLUMN:  BORACAY  NEEDS  MASTER  PLAN

MANILA, June 6, 2005
 (STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - Haphazard growth of the tourism business in Boracay will eventually kill it unless national and local government officials take action now. As it happens, local government officials in Aklan province and Malay town (of which Boracay is a part) are worse than guilty of doing nothing to preserve the environment which is Boracayís prime attraction. They are even turning a blind eye to those who violate environment protection laws.

In Ces Drilonís program Get Real over the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) last Thursday evening, Environment Secretary Mike Defensor confirmed what he told me the previous week that the local congressman and governor requested DENR to delay implementing a closure order on polluting establishments. This was also confirmed to me by the Boracay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) in an e-mail sent in reaction to a previous column.

According to the BCCI e-mail, Rep. Miraflores and Governor Carlito Marquez wrote Sec. Defensor on May 12, "in behalf of those Boracay resorts", to request for a postponement until the peak season is over as "closure will greatly affect the industry as cancellations can drive away tourists to other destinations". But the BCCI is not buying that kind of reasoning.

On May 23, the Boracay Chamber of Commerce wrote Rep. Miraflores and Gov. Marquez a letter, correctly expressing concern that the government is sending mixed signals to the establishments concerned. The BCCI reminded the local government officials that "these establishments have been exhorted over and over again to connect to the sewerage system for the preservation of the island and therefore no postponement should be given."

That was precisely the point raised by Ces Drilon and her guests last Thursday evening, which included environmental lawyer Tony Oposa of Cebu and Dr. Carlo Arcilla, a scientist from UP who led an academic group that did an environmental study of Boracay. Dr. Arcilla pointed out that they found serious bacterial contamination of waters along the island, but only in areas where these establishments discharge untreated sewage.

Dr. Arcilla said tongue-in-cheek that the level of bacterial contamination (study was done in lean season) is not harmful unless you drink the water. But can you imagine swimming in water with someoneís crap and pee? Maybe we should have the honorable congressman and governor together with the owners/managers of the offending establishments swim in that portion of Boracayís waters and dare them to drink the water too.

The good congressman and governor should have advised the offending Boracay establishments to just follow the law and urgently connect their establishments to the centralized sewage treatment plant. Why wait for the end of June to get shut down by DENR? There is a cost to connecting, but that should be considered part of the cost of doing business in Boracay because otherwise, they wonít be in business for long if the environment is damaged.

It is embarrassing that foreigners seem to care more about preserving this natural treasure than those who profit from it. The Japanese government helped fund the building of the sewage treatment plant. Now, the Canadian government is contributing half the cost of setting up a Materials Recovery Center that would address another serious problem of Boracay, its mounting garbage. Boracayís version of Mt. Payatas is fast rising.

I was surprised to learn that Boracay currently produces seven to 10 metric tons of solid waste daily depending on tourist traffic which peaks in the summer months from March till May yearly. The BCCI sees tourist traffic hitting 500,000 visitors for the first time this year with an annual 10 percent increase experience.

While the figures may be staggering, it is only the start of further growth. Is Boracay ready to welcome more visitors? If not, and something bad happens like an epidemic caused by water contamination or inadequate garbage handling, we will lose everything overnight. It would be difficult to recover.

And that brings me to the need to update Boracayís Master Plan and implement it, a responsibility that should be assumed by both the DENR and the Department of Tourism. Now that there are large tourism oriented projects coming up, we must have clear land use policies that take into account the carrying capacity of the island. How many tourists can the island really take? What facilities can the island take? Is a golf course really viable in an island that does not have its own adequate source of water?

Are we just going to do nothing to ensure the long term viability of the island as a tourist haven? The current strategy seems to be to just wait for the island to self destruct. I realize such shortsightedness is also very Filipino but it is just the kind of mindset we have to change if we are to get anywhere in this world. Anak Ng Jueteng I donít know about the other government officials implicated by a supposed witness to the jueteng scandal thatís currently entertaining us. But I canít believe Joey Salceda has sunk so low as to partake of jueteng money. If Joey needs money that badly, he could just as easily resign his seat and go back to the world of corporate investing.

It is Joeyís last term as congressman and the last time we talked, Joey was thinking of going to New York or London to test his investment skills with the best of them there. That does not sound like someone who would stoop so low as to take in jueteng protection money.

Maybe Joey is not beyond making money on the side when given the chance, but if I know him, he would make sure it is a lot of money. He couldnít be bothered by nickels and dimes in the jueteng world. It just isnít worth it. He has too much at stake.

As far as I am concerned, the credibility of that witness turned nil by including Joey in his list. I simply canít believe Joey has become an anak ng jueteng too. Then again, how do I really know? Maybe he had been keeping bad company and thatís what happens to people who donít know how to choose people he associates with.

IPaq Woes

Reader RV Timbol wrote us to relate a woeful experience with that popular yuppie device, the IPaq from Hewlett Packard.

Sometime in December 2004 I bought a Hewlett Packard (HP) iPAQ 6365 Pocket PC for P39,000.00. I was using this until May 2005, when it got damaged as the unit accidentally fell from my lap on a carpeted floor during a meeting.

I immediately brought it to the HP Repair Center in Makati and I was told right then and there that this type of damage is not covered by the warranty. I, therefore, requested that the unit be repaired and asked for a quotation on how much this will cost.

I was also told outright that the local HP office is not adequately equipped to repair the unit. I insisted that they have the obligation to repair the products that they are selling or at least they must fully disclose that these products cannot be repaired locally.

After a few days, I received a fax message from HP with a cost of repair quotation of P22,200, which is 57 percent of the price of a brand new one. The quotation, to say the least, is very disappointing! Since the local office of HP does not have a service facility, I am at a loss on how the cost of repair was arrived at. I believe that the amount quoted is simply to discourage me from pursuing the issue.

What I cannot understand is why a company with an international reputation for quality, will sell such expensive products which are not durable and also does not provide back-up service. I request that you mention this in your column for the protection of the public, so that they may also be duly informed not only for this particular product of HP but for all others which may be similarly situated. Thank you.

Boo Chancoís e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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