OPINION: That Boracay moment

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Jun 14 2018 10:02 PM

Let me advance outright that the arbitrary closure of the island resort is not without some benefit. Environmental and sanitation concerns have been stoked. That is enough to be a very big deal. 

Unfortunately, there persists the widespread and accepted public point of view that the matter could have been handled and implemented with prudence and common sense. It has, therefore, become inevitable that the closure of Boracay is widely perceived to have been attended by irresponsible Presidential whimsy! And that too is a very big deal!

As has been his wont, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has displayed serial episodes when he publicly telegraphs inner thoughts and slightly hidden intents that he teasingly does not wish to completely divulge or is unable to outright pronounce and frontally admit. He gives hints and make us guess what he really is up to, which is oftentimes a dead give away, anyway. I get the impression that he enjoys that personal style and stance. 

When Duterte is history, (oh, yes, it will come!) academic interests may want to itemize and analyze such pronouncements and equate them with ensuing events materializing as factual, one readily concludes to have been foretold! 

To put forward just one example, there is that glaring admission when he bragged about his ability to plant manufactured evidence as a Davao City prosecutor. Events segued towards the trumped-up charges against Senator Leila de Lima that led to her arrest and continued detention.

Another such occasion palpably qualifies for the genre. His apparent obsession and obstinacy over Boracay. For the nth time the President has ad-libbed again about Boracay. Just last Tuesday, he was at it once more in a forum that had nothing to do with tourism nor land reform. Are his pronouncements referencing Boracay perhaps a smokescreen for what may already be a done deal? Or is there something about behind-the-scene Boracay goings-on that seem to disturb him? 
 
I say ‘ad-libbed,’ because there has been a continuing absence of a well-thought out plan for such a celebrated undertaking. And yet, the government agencies tasked with the Boracay rehabilitation is talking of a Ph4.2-billion-peso ticket.

In complete disregard of prevailing realities, even blindsiding the pertinent legal institution charged with such matters, Duterte has willynilly declared the entire Boracay a land reform area. Now, he wants to divvy up the island and distribute the land to the indigenous Atis, so that they can sell to “big business” what Duterte purports to be land-reform benefits that he, all by himself, has deemed due them.

“That is how I think about things,” he smugly said. His ideas for Boracay being one of those “how I think about things.”

Let us face up to reality, folks. President Duterte would not be thinking the way he did and does about Boracay, and behaving accordingly, IF ONLY: 

One. He had visited and toured to personally see and acquaint himself with Boracay. Reality, as it were. 
 
Two. He had read and understood Republic Act No. 6657, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). That law was passed after he barely passed the bar examinations!; and,
 
Three. His Cabinet or at least, the pertinent secretaries, had informed and cautioned him that the President/King “has no clothes!” The truth is the President pronounced a shoot-from-the- hip policy without benefit of a feasibility study and legal leg to stand on. His secretaries do not possess the righteous gumption to advice the President of what is ultimately good pro patria and president.

According to available government statistics, there are only 50 indigenous Ati families composed of 214 individuals in the island. Just about less than five such families are engaged in marginal agricultural endeavors, in fact, in less than 3 hectares! Many are employed by the resort businesses that have been ordered closed. In other words, they are not farmers.

The CARP law delineates the legal process that must be observed. Basically, the CARP law addresses “the redistribution of public and private agricultural lands to farmers and farmworkers.” The law is not at all confiscatory as Duterte is perceived to sound. The law further recognizes “the rights of landowners to just compensation.” The island of Boracay has never, until Duterte’s “how I think about things” dictum, figured in the reckoning of designated land reform targets in the country!

“Just compensation.” Now, that entails costs. Has the Presidential staff ever calculated, even vaguely, the values involved? Does the Republic have such unbudgeted monies in the National Treasury, or will another borrowing spree from China ensue?

How will Duterte explain to the resort investors and island residents who have all this time been compliant with Philippine laws, positioned in Boracay and in good faith possession/ownership of de facto non-agricultural real estate? And to the likes of the Villars (the very first financial backers of Duterte’s candidacy) who have just levelled a hilltop for the footprint of their condominium construction? And what about that Macau Chinese investor (the one photographed with Duterte) already given a permit by PAGCOR and the existing 18-hole golf course? Even the Department of Agrarian Reform has not been heard commenting on these huge particularities.

The curiously generous President can indeed gift the Atis of Boracay without circuitously invoking and attempt to utilize an existing law he does not seem to understand. He can simply dip into his bloated Office of the President’s Confidential and Intelligence budget. At, say, at a million pesos per Ati family (the figure was mentioned by the President himself), that will only be a total of 5O million pesos. 

Please note that this amount is much less than what have been allowed the Tulfo brothers and Cesar Montano to siphon off from the public coffers for supposedly tourism-related promotionals.
But here is the fly in Duterte’s ointment, assuming his land reform is forced through, how will Duterte explain to the landless indigenous minorities in Mindanao, of which there are thousands more, that they do not qualify for his brand of political and economic beneficence. 

It would be of great interest and significance to the Philippines should the aggrieved business owners and property holders of the resort island refuse to give up their legally acquired properties and file a class action suit. The desired outcome is of course an assurance that they and the rest of us are still a nation of laws.

That is why I said “That Boracay moment” is a very big deal. It has become veritably indicative of the Duterte style of personal governance. The phrase qualifies as the metaphor for shoddy decision-making, incoherent and uninformed diktat formulation, evidence of managerial incompetence. 

“That Boracay moment” is worthy of the nation’s watch!

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.