Say, Say, Say: NO BORACAY-LIKE CLOSURE FOR EL NIDO

Have you booked a vacation in El Nido for the end of 2018 or for the first half of 2019? Are you alarmed by the current news about its rehabilitation and afraid that your dream vacation in this beautiful island will be affected?

Well, fret no more! Here are some updates and tips, since I am also affected with my December 7-11scheduled vacation to this designated “best beach and island destination”.1

Let’s look back on this year (2018):

  1. In February, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) MIMAROPA2 formed Task Force El Nido to address the environmental problems of the island, prioritizing the delineation of the standard easement zones and timberland areas, the degradation of water quality in Bacuit Bay3, garbage disposal, unregulated construction of structures, and the wastewater management.4
  2. In March4:

(a) Malacañang urged the local government and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to immediately demolish illegal structures built along the town’s foreshore in violation of zoning and easement laws, and to take the initiative in implementing environmental laws;

(b) the local government underwent a cleanup drive and regulated the use of plastics, cellophane and Styrofoam as food and drink containers, among others;

(c) DENR Secretary Cimatu ordered the eviction of 32 businesses5 found to have been in violation of the 3-meter coastal easement provided under the Philippine Water Code for classified urban areas like El Nido, inspite of an order from local officials that gave a grace period to the affected establishments before they voluntarily demolish the structures;

(d) the Task Force issued 407 eviction notices to structures built on declared easement zones and forestlands and served violation notices to 253 establishments found non-compliant with laws regulating wastewater discharge and easement compelling them to pay penalties ranging from PHP20,000 to 200,000 per day. Erring establishment owners were given time to comply through technical conferences facilitated by the regional Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

3. Thereafter, national government officials met with local officials to discuss several problems, especially overcrowding and pollution in the lagoons due to the large influx of tourists (peaking at over 200,000 in 2017), as well as cooking and throwing trash.

4. President Duterte told Palawan residents to impose stricter regulations and put a cap on the number of tourists to protect its natural wonders.

5. In May, the town and DENR cleared the main beach in Bacuit Bay so it is now accessible to tourists.

6. In August, a photo of garbage floating around the Secret Lagoon went viral on social media.6 Actually, 140 sacks of foreign plastic trash were collected, mostly (70%) plastic bottles of foreign origin that found their way into the Secret Lagoon on Miniloc Island. Other debris were Styrofoam, rubber scraps, plastic wrappers, nylon and ropes. A DENR official said that the waste was carried by ocean currents and strong winds, made stronger by monsoon rains that hit Palawan. This led to a cleanup drive by the owners and workers of local tourist establishments and members of the Philippine Coast Guard.

7. In October, the local government demolished 95% of illegal structures in the town proper’s easement zone, according to Municipal Administrator Rene Jay Dela Calzada. He added that these structures were legal until the shoreline receded due to the gradual rise in sea level.7

8. In November, water pollution levels around the main beach area in the island have gone down significantly, according to the latest tests conducted by the EMB. DENR MIMAROPA said the results of water tests in Barangays Corong-Corong, Maligaya and Masagana in Bacuit Bay, after 7 months of Task Force El Nido’s monitoring and cleanup drive, indicated that the fecal coliform levels had gone down to “normal”. However, Barangay Buena Suerte, a populated area, has a fecal coliform level of 1,600 MPN (most probable number) per 100 millimeters, and still needs to be improved, based on the prescribed 100 MPN.

The local government also intensified its crackdown on illegal tour operators and have started apprehending boat tour operators with no proper documents.7

9. On November 28, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año went to El Nido to discuss the rehabilitation plans for the island with the local government officials, just like what they did in Boracay.

What’s next, especially in the next 6 months?

  1. El Nido will be rehabilitated but will not be closed off, according to the Department of Tourism. There are many establishments that abide by government requirements and the local government took initiatives to address the town’s problems, so total closure is not necessary.

Environment Secretary Cimatu said that he ordered the deployment of 50 personnel from the DENR to conduct a baseline assessment of El Nido and oversee the rehabilitation effort.4

The government is preparing an executive order to be issued by President Duterte detailing the rehabilitation plan for El Nido. The DENR will also ask the national government to allocate funds for activities that the town would need, including a plan to transfer the local port.4

Secretary Cimatu, on November 28, 2018, gave local officials 6 months to complete a rehabilitation program to rid the town’s beaches of pollution and enforce environmental compliance of commercial establishments. By then, the town’s water treatment and sewerage project would have been completed.4

2. It was reported that 22 establishments will be closed due to various violations. Fifty other establishments will be strictly monitored by DENR.4,7

3. El Nido Municipal Administrator Dela Calzada said authorities would soon limit the number of tourists visiting key island destinations to preserve the area.

The local government has set the tourist limit at the island’s Big Lagoon to 60 per hour with kayak trips at 30 per hour; and, for the Small Lagoon, at only 30 tourists and 15 kayak trips per hour.7

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the government will make sure that thousands of tourist boats will not spill wastewater and oil into the bay.

4. Tour packages will also be redesigned to regulate the number of tourists. El Nido used to offer 4 standard tour packages, with 5 to 6 attractions per package; soon, there will be 7 tour packages with fewer destinations per package.7

5. Early this year, single use plastics in tour packages, particularly water bottles, have been banned. Coast guard personnel inspect boats and confiscate plastic bottles before they are allowed to sail.7

6. An interagency body is set to undertake a massive cleanup of El Nido.4,7 The DENR will follow the same time frame it employed in rehabilitating Boracay Island since it has the same problems: quality of water, improper sewage system, and easement violations. DENR Secretary Cimatu said that the rehabilitation of El Nido will only cover small areas with minimum government intervention.7

7. DENR will continue its campaign against erring establishments off Bacuit Bay3, hopefully, by the end of the year.4

8. The government has yet to determine the carrying capacity of El Nido, but funds for the study are already on standby, according to Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.7

9. DENR Secretary Cimatu is pushing for a 20-meter no-build zone. He said the current 3-meter easement zone from the shoreline should be adjusted “to allow tourists to enjoy the sand and the view with enough space,” as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, land titles were issued by the DENR in the 1980s/earlier.7

10. The local government is building a centralized sewage treatment plant that is expected to be operational in 2019.7

11. The government is pushing for the strict implementation of Municipal Ordinance No. 29, or the sanitation ordinance, that prohibits any house or establishment from discharging liquid waste directly to the ocean, according to Mayor Nieves Rosento.7

12. A dedicated security task force is also in the pipeline to ensure the safety of all tourists visiting the islands.4

So, what should tourists do when visiting El Nido, starting December 2018?

  1. Be a responsible tourist. Be cooperative; follow all new guidelines as well as rules/regulations set by the local government/Task Force El Nido, if any.
  2. Be an eco-warrior: bring your personal refillable water bottle. Remember, single use plastic water bottles are banned during island hopping.
  3. Drink alcoholic beverages only in licensed establishments. Do not drink on the beach to avoid generating trash and broken glass.
  4. Do not litter. Keep your garbage until you find a trash can.
  5. Smoke only in designated places and properly dispose of your cigarette butts.
  6. Respect the environment. Do not collect shells, sand, and other natural resources.
  7. Leave only footprints. Just keep taking photos and videos of the beautiful landscape and flora/fauna.
  8. Level your expectations, be patient and understanding. Bear in mind that El Nido is undergoing rehabilitation so there would be on-going construction, repairs, etc. Just remember that all these projects are for sustainable tourism in the municipality, for future generations to visit, appreciate and enjoy.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Are you a responsible traveler? Do you have any other tips for El Nido travellers? Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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1CNNGo named El Nido as the “Best Beach and Island Destination in the Philippines” for its “extraordinary natural splendor and ecosystem,” according to the Wikipedia page “El Nido, Palawan”.8

2MIMAROPA, or the Southwestern Tagalog Region (as of 2016), is a Philippine region located in the island group of Luzon, with Calapan as its regional center. It has 6 local government units (LGUs): Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Puerto Princesa (a city in Palawan), and Romblon. This region was formerly called Region IV-B (2002-2016). NOTE: MIMAROPA is an acronym for this region’s provinces: MIndoro (Occidental and Oriental), MArinduque, ROmblon, PAlawan.

3Bacuit Bay is a huge archipelago or group of 45 limestone islands clustered together, offering clear and cool watershome to interesting marine life and coral reefs, plus captivating beaches, marble cliffs, awesome lagoons, mangrove forests, enchanting dive sites, caves, among others. It is considered one of the most beautiful bays in the world. The largest town in the vicinity is El Nido so tourists enter this bay through that town.9

4www.newsinfo.inquirer.net

5A municipal order was served on March 2018 to the following establishments7:

  1. Amigo’s Inn
  2. Engel Nido
  3. Angel Wish
  4. Caalan Beach Resort
  5. Cadlao Resort
  6. Cadlao Resort Extension
  7. Café Athena
  8. Chislyk
  9. El Nido Beach Resort
  10. El Nido Boutique Art and Café
  11. El Nido Garden
  12. El Nido Reef Strand Resort
  13. Golden Monkey
  14. Hadefe Beach Resort
  15. Hidden Beach Resort
  16. Isla Expeditions
  17. Jarace Grill
  18. Kalinga Beach Resort
  19. La Salanganne
  20. Lally And Abet Extension
  21. Linda Leona Store
  22. Mezzanine El Nido
  23. Nido Bay Inn
  24. Organic Spa
  25. Palawan Pawnshop
  26. Prince’s
  27. Relucio Inn
  28. Rosanna’s Pension
  29. Shorepass Lodge
  30. Sonny Sails
  31. The Nest
  32. TTD Store

These establishments were given 30 days to vacate and demolish their property that crossed the 3-meter easement zone. I still need to find an article regarding an update on these establishments.

6www.news.mb.com.ph

7www.news.abs-cbn.com

8“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed October 26, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

9www.elnidotourism.com

Photo Credit: Some photos in the featured collage image were obtained from Gani Ricarte of Hello El Nido! Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com

Say, Say Say: THE NATIONAL HIGHWAYS IN THE PHILIPPINES

“Our roads and sidewalks must only be used by motorists and pedestrians.” – declared Department of Public Works and Highways National Capital Region Director Melvin B. Navarro, on August 2017, during a clearing operation along Road Radial 10 (R-10) in Manila

Hello, dearest Seniors! Can you recall the road trips you’ve done around our beautiful country? Religious pilgrimages during Holy Week, going back to one’s town during fiestas, riding a bus all the way to the northern or southern parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, all these and more enable us to appreciate the landscape and local culture of towns along the route.

However, I am sure you have experienced times when your vehicle was cruising along the national highway passing through a town or city and suddenly, your driver slows down and this goes on for several kilometers.

All passengers in the vehicle eventually become impatient due to the slow pace until finally, the driver gets to overtake, only to find out that a tricycle was at the front of the long line of vehicles, occupying the leftmost lane, or worse, the only lane.

Your driver desperately wants to overtake but cannot, due to the continuous flow of vehicles going in the opposite direction, or the zigzagging or winding road. Either instance would make it difficult and dangerous to do so.

Luckily, you might find yourself in towns with well paved 2-lane national roads. I personally feel elated when the roads are widened from one lane to at least double lanes. However, sometimes, when one goes along these newly paved streets, one will observe that vehicles cannot use the rightmost lane because of “obstructions”: old/existing electric poles at the center of the extended lane; old trees that might have been there for the longest time but with delays in their removal due to environmental technicalities; “palay” (harvested, unhusked rice) being sun-dried; parked vehicles fronting commercial establishments whose building permits have been approved without a provision for appropriate parking space; extensions of small and medium enterprises like carinderias and related/transient eateries, vulcanizing shops, carwashes, roadside fruit/pasalubong stands; and, even tents of homes with on-going wakes providing karaoke and dining tables for visitors.

A-road obstruction-1-okNewly cemented road for road widening project but look – electric poles at the center of the 2 new lanes along with cars parked, so what is the use of these new lanes?

Just imagine all these obstructions, compounded by jeepneys, provincial buses, vehicles carrying perishables to/from towns/cities, slow tricycles along the leftmost lane, and motorcycles with unprotected drivers and passengers (which might include a wife and one child to two children). In addition, some drivers of the two and three-wheeled mentioned vehicles treat the broken white line divider as their personal lane. So tell me, how can a driver comfortably and safely drive/maneuver along our country’s national highways?

SUVs, or larger vehicles, have difficulty using the leftmost lane with slow-moving vehicles also using said lane since the right lane has obstructions. Furthermore, fast-paced motorcycle drivers have the tendency to overtake at the right side of the road which might cause accidents if the drivers cruising along the correct lanes need to turn right and fail to see fast-approaching motorcycles.

Sounds familiar? Gosh, I have witnessed all these while driving from Lumban to Calamba (both in the province of Laguna), before entering SLEX, enroute to Metro Manila. Sigh …

The high budget of constructing, or expanding, national highways using millions of taxpayers’ money is not enjoyed to the fullest by driving taxpayers! Is it just not enough for the government to say – build, build, build. How about adding – clear, clear, clear the national highwaysthus enabling vehicles to use ALL lanes!

But, Pinoy roadtrippers, do not despair! There are current provisions and developments to solve this dilemma:

  1. Under the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160), city and municipal mayors, through their respective Sangguniang Bayan and the Sangguniang Panlungsod, are authorized to regulate the operation of tricycles and to grant franchise for their operation within their respective territorial jurisdiction, subject to the guidelines prescribed by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), now the Department of Transportation (DOTr).1

The Department of the Interior and Local Government issued Memorandum Circulars which prohibit tricycles to ply along the national highways utilized by 4-wheel vehicles greater than 4 tons and where the normal speed exceeds 40 kilometers per hour. If there is no alternative route or road network available, such as routes beyond the town proper, however, the Sangguniang Bayan and the Sangguniang Panlungsod shall provide exception through the enactment of an ordinance.1

Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año urged local authorities to strictly adhere to the standards and guidelines provided by a Memorandum Circular, which contains the basic considerations in the preparation of city or municipal tricycle and pedicab franchise and regulatory ordinance or code. He said that allowing these vehicles to pass through main thoroughfares “pose hazards to other motor vehicles, the riding public, and even to the drivers themselves. The regulation of tricycles and pedicabs on national highways is, therefore, to the best interest of everyone.” These guidelines include prohibiting said vehicles to carry more passengers and goods than what they are designed for, or more than what is authorized in the franchise, among others.1

Land Transportation Office (LTO)-7 Regional Director Raul Aguilos said that the operation of tricycles and pedicabs has been a good source of livelihood, but allowing them to traverse the national highway puts the lives of their passengers at risk.2

Oh my gosh, the said Code has been in existence since 1991, that is 27 years, almost 3 decades! Why are some local officials not enforcing this?

However, there are towns/cities that require all motorcycles to stay on the right lane – not on the left lane and definitely not along the broken white line between lanes! In this regard, I admire San Pablo City in Laguna.

A-San Pablo-tricycles

So, local officials of other towns/cities nationwide, what are you waiting for? Please implement order and discipline along national highways!

2. The provisions of Section 23 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 178 (also known as the Revised Philippine Highway Act), prohibit the use of road right-of-way for temporary and permanent structures such as buildings, houses, shanties, stores, shops, stalls, sheds, canopies, and billboards.3 Again I ask, why is this not enforced?

  1. Bill 5098 of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian requires all car owners to have a permanent garage or parking space before purchasing a vehicle. Any financially able buyer of a motor vehicle must submit a notarized affidavit attesting to the availability of a parking space for a new vehicle to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) as a prerequisite for car registration.If s/he can buy and maintain a car, s/he can also provide a permanent parking space for it.2

A-no-garage-okTown roads are usually narrow, just barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass in opposite directions. But what happens when car/tricycle/vehicle-owners have no parking space inside their property? Take a look!

Bravo, beloved legislators, drivers and pedestrians can now enjoy our streets nationwide without illegally parked cars! Please pass this bill asap. Mr. President, please immediately sign it thereafter. Finally, whoever will be tasked to make the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), please do it fast and disseminate for proper and immediate implementation!

Upon implementation, the Metro Manila Development Authority, or its local counterpart in towns and other cities, is required to conduct periodic inspections of streets to determine if there are illegally parked vehicles and penalize accordingly (e.g., for car owner: revocation of motor vehicle registration, a fine of PHP50,000, penalties under the Revised Penal Code for making a false statement under oath and falsification of a public document, and not being allowed to register said vehicle; for any LTO official/employee, suspension for 3 months without pay).2

Allow me also to add the following:

1. Provincial buses and jeepneys plying national highways must load-unload at designated or safe stops and not at the middle of the road, thereby blocking the vehicles following them and cause unnecessary traffic.

2. Passengers of jeepneys must observe and respect designated loading-unloading places, and not be hardheaded as to ask to be dropped at a convenient spot which might be a dangerous curve or accident-prone area only because it is near or is at his/her destination.

3. Just in case a wake is held in a house located along a narrow two-lane national highway, the persons concerned must get a permit from the local government, which in turn, must send well-trained enforcers to control and monitor traffic to ensure the smooth flow of vehicles affected by the blocking of one lane. For the bereaved family, please do not occupy more than one lane for the tent so that the remaining lane for vehicles is good enough for large trucks and buses to pass.

4. Contractors of any construction or repair on the national highway or sidewalks therein, must be required and monitored to provide proper and well-lighted safety barriers against possible dangerous unfinished work which could cause accidents to vehicles especially at night.

5. Pedestrian lanes must be respected by all drivers.

6. Public schools that install metal barriers to protect pupils/students must be responsible enough to remove such obstructions during school time when pupils are in the classrooms. These barriers should not be left out on the roads the whole day, at night, nor on non-school days. I think drivers understand the need to protect children, teachers and school administrators during entry and dismissal times. But outside these times, please give back the road to vehicles.

7. Motorcycles are aplenty and some recklessly overtake at the right side, or boldly swerve from left to right and in between vehicles. Worse, drivers (usually wearing slippers) and passengers have no proper helmets and other protective gear, and some even have two or more passengers on the front and back of the driver. Tell me, how often do you see a traffic enforcer in a town? If so, do they bother to call the attention of such people?

I am now used to, and no longer surprised to see lots of motorcycle and tricycle drivers who unusually park along the highway to avoid checkpoints with enforcers checking on their driver’s license, vehicle registration, etc. Why are these checkpoints not strategically located so that there is no way for these drivers to avoid inspection? Why are these inspections not done daily in various unannounced locations so that those without licenses and those who are minors will be discouraged from driving along national highways?

8. And as for the quality of national roads, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) must: be strict in choosing contractors (no sub-contracting please!); monitor their compliance with regard to the quality/thickness of roads, as well as progress and completion thereof within contract terms; and, require safe and neon-lighted/painted warnings and protection against unfinished areas, among others. Hopefully, drivers and passengers will have a safe, comfortable and smooth ride on well-paved roads, without potholes or uneven surfaces.

Bottomline, it boils down to consistent implementation, regardless of violators. Self-discipline and cooperation among drivers and those with properties along national highways would really go a long way for a safe and orderly roadtrip nationwide. This would definitely boost domestic tourism by land and show our foreign visitors that we are disciplined and are conscious about road safety.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. What are your insights regarding driving along national highways in the Philippines? Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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1www.pna.gov.ph

2www.philstar.com

3www.dpwh.gov.ph

Say, Say, Say – BORACAY: PARADISE CLOSED TO BREATHE, TO HEAL! (April 26 – October 25, 2018)

When someone mentions BORACAY, what comes to your mind? Powdery white sand beach, swimming with your family and friends in the clear waters, partying at Station 21, picture-taking at Willy’s Rock2, having a massage at the beach front, getting a tattoo, enjoying a beautiful sunset with beer/cocktails among family/friends along the beach, savoring Jonah’sfruitshakes, indulging in Halomangotreats, shopping at D’Mall5?

Personally, I think it is a combination of all of the above, and then some. This prompted me to revisit Boracay on November 2017, 5 months before it was closed. Sad to say, I was so unsatisfied: with the traffic and easy flooding of the narrow main street due to clogged waterways, even with just a brief rainy spell; maneuvering my way through lots of persistent peddlers, massage stations, and tattoo artists along the beach; and, with the endless number of people almost everywhere we went. Garbage disposal and contaminated water remained serious problems, among others. I just wanted a quiet and peaceful island getaway with loved ones. Is that too much to ask?

But Boracay was like a magnet to local and foreign tourists! I cannot blame them! It was ranked second out of 25 beaches in Asia and the 24th in the world in TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travellers’ Choice Awards. It was also named the best island resort by Conde Nast in 2016.6

There were 3.72 million people who went to Boracay in 2017, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.The Region VI – Western Visayas Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council showed that the number of tourists in the island in a day was 18,082, and the tourist arrival increased by more than 160% from 2012-2017.8

So, why was it closed for six months, i.e., from April 26 till October 25, 2018? It is the first time ever in the history of Philippine tourism that an island was closed for rehabilitation!

What really happened? Here is a chronology, somehow, with information which I gathered from various sources:

There were news and exposés in the past involving garbage, sanitation and zoning issues in the island but they all did not last long. Waters along the beaches have experienced algal bloom which environmentalists and some long-time residents claim to be an indicator of pollution and deteriorating water conditions. The local government of Malay (the municipality where Boracay belongs to) and some Malay business operators and residents, on the other hand, insisted that the algal bloom is a natural seasonal phenomenon that usually happens annually in the summer, that it occurred in Boracay even before the island became developed, and said that two major Philippine television networks used photos of algal bloom in the island to “sensationalize” the natural algal phenomenon.

President Duterte called the island a “cesspool” in a business forum held in February 9, 2018, before all executive agencies. Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s comment on the situation in Boracay, the local government of Malay issued a statement in February 19, 2018 accepting the remarks of the president as “constructive criticism” and acknowledged the environmental issues affecting the island. It pointed out that the municipal government entered into a partnership with an architectural firm, Palafox Associates, to formulate a tourism municipal master plan which will involve decongesting Boracay and will implement building regulations in the island.

There were repeated calls for a partial closure of Boracay instead of a total closure. 1-Pacman party-list, a Philippine political party-list advocating for the marginalized and displaced sector of the country, proposed the closure of areas identified as medium to high risk, based primarily on environmental and sanitary standards, but with low risk areas still being able to operate, while the rest of the island will be rehabilitated.

However, it was just a matter of time for the government to temporarily close the beautiful island of Boracay not only because the President himself call the island a “cesspool” but also because a government study revealed that Boracay will be a “dead island” in less than a decade if it will not be rehabilitated soonest.These prompted the various government agencies to get their act together – FINALLY!

 Most of the information in this section was obtained from the Wikipedia page, “2018 Boracay closure and redevelopment”.9

FINDINGS

Eventually, three government departments recommended the island’s closure – the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Tourism (DoT), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), based on the following findings/validation8:

1.There was a high concentration of fecal coliform in the Bulabog beaches located in the eastern side of Boracay Island due to insufficient sewer lines and illegal discharge of untreated waste water into the beach, with daily tests conducted from March 6-10, 2018, revealing consistent failure in compliance with acceptable water standards, with an average result of 18,000 most probable number (MPN)/100 ml, exceeding the standard level of 400 MPN/100ml. Furthermore, the increase in coliform bacteria level (which is indicative of fecal contamination and can cause diarrhea) and longer episodes of algal bloom definitely affected the quality of water for tourists to swim.6

2. Most commercial establishments and residences were not connected to the sewerage infrastructure of the island, and waste products were not being disposed through the proper sewerage infrastructures in violation of environmental laws, rules, and regulations. Excavation revealed that sewage was directly dumped into the sea by at least 300 hotels, resorts, and inns that ignored an ordinance requiring them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities.6 Waste was dumped into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow, or worse, into installed pipes that led directly to the sea. Renovation work in the sewerage system was badly needed.

Boracay Island Water Co., a unit of Ayala-led Manila Water Co. Inc., operates the sewerage network of Boracay which accommodates only 61% of the island. It has two central sewerage plants with a total capacity of only 11.5 million liters/day, one in Barangay Balabag and another in Barangay Manoc-Manoc.16 Alas, only 58% of the treatment plant’s capacity has been utilized since many establishments were not connected to the sewerage systems.

3. Only 14, out of 51 establishments, near the shores of the island were compliant with the provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004. Dirty water resulted in the degradation of the coral reefs and coral cover of the island, which declined by approximately 70.5% from 1988 to 2011, with the highest decrease taking place between 2008 and 2011 during a period of increased tourist arrivals.

4. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) revealed that:

a. beach erosion was prevalent in the island, particularly along the west beach, where much of the 40 meters of erosion took place in the past 20 years from 1993-2003 (due to storms and extraction of sand along the beach to construct properties and structures along the foreshore), and where discharge of waste water near the shore caused degradation of coral reefs and sea grass meadows that supply the beach with sediments and serve as buffer to wave action;

b. based on the 2010-2015 Coastal Ecosystem Conservation and Adaptive Management Study of the Japan Cooperation Agency, direct discharge of waste water near the shore resulted in frequent algal bloom and coral deterioration, which reduced the source of sand and caused erosion.

5. Solid waste within the island was at a generation rate of 90-115 tons per day, while the hauling capacity of the local government was only 30 tons per day, thus, approximately 85 tons of waste were left in the island daily.

6. Only four, out of nine, wetlands in the island remained due to the illegal encroachment of structures, including 937 identified illegal structures constructed on forestlands and wetlands, 102 illegal structures constructed on areas already classified as easements, and the disappearance of the wetlands, which act as natural catchments, enhanced flooding in the area.

Four of the missing wetlands were said to have been occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel, and around 100 illegal settlers.6

(So this is the reason why, during my November 2017 visit, the roads easily flooded even with light and short rains. I hope they recover and rehabilitate the 5 missing wetlands!)

7. There were problems regarding zoning, construction and environmental regulations. There were encroachments in the beach land, including the easement of 25+5 meters from the shore. Buildings were constructed too close to the shore, on top of the water, and the forest trees and terrain were leveled off to give way to new buildings. Authorities found almost a thousand illegal structures.Structures were built in no-build zones, like in West Cove, near the mountain.11 The government already issued notices to a hundred establishments.12

(I was relieved to see on television that some establishments self-demolished illegal structures even before the closure date.)

8. There was overcrowding, i.e., the number of people in the island was beyond the carrying capacity of the island, i.e., 3.7 million visitors in 2017 with 36,000 residents.

(Definitely, there should be a cap on the number of daily visitors to the island! See related posts: Short and Simple: WHAT IS THE TOURIST CARRYING CAPACITY FOR BORACAY’S 2018 RE-OPENING?

9. The continuous rise of tourist arrivals, the insufficient sewer and waste management system, pollution from boats, and environmental violations of establishments aggravated the environmental degradation and destroyed the very fragile ecological balance of the island, resulting in major damage to property and natural resources, as well as the disruption of the normal way of life of the people therein.

The natural habitats of Puka shells, nesting grounds of marine turtles, and roosting grounds of flying foxes, or fruit bats, were damaged and/or destroyed.

It is necessary to implement urgent measures to address the aforementioned human-induced hazards, to protect and promote the health and well-being of its residents, workers and tourists, and to rehabilitate the island in order to ensure the sustainability of the area and prevent further degradation of its rich ecosystem.

10. There was no master plan for sustainable eco-friendly tourism for Boracay.

11. The island is classified into 377.68 hectares of reserved forest land for protection purposes and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land as alienable and disposable land, according to Proclamation No. 1064 (s. 2006).

(So, why were there structures on such classified lands? Who approved their construction?)

12. The Environmental Management Bureau-Western Visayas (EMB 6) issued a total of 478 notices of violation to establishments in the island for violating environmental laws; 157 were already endorsed to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) and 35 have been slapped with penalties ranging from PHP60,000 to 80,000.13

13. Boracay’s degradation was blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.6

All these revealed obvious corruption of local government entities so the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) needs to investigate appropriate local officials.

RESULT: A PRESIDENTIAL DECREE TO CLOSE BORACAY AND THE DECLARATION OF A STATE OF CALAMITY TO FAST-TRACT REHABILITATION

Pursuant to the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (R.A. No. 10121), the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council recommended the declaration of a State of Calamity in the island and its temporary closure as a tourist destination to ensure public safety and public health, and to assist the government in its expeditious rehabilitation, as well as address the evolving socio-economic needs of affected communities.14

On April 4, 2018, the Philippine government announced that Boracay would be closed for 6 months, starting April 26, with checkpoints manned by police officers and soldiers to be set up at piers to turn away visitors from the island and passes would be given to local residents.

Subsequently, on April 26, 2018, the President signed Proclamation No. 475 declaring a state of calamity in the barangays of Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak (Island of Boracay) in the municipality of Malay, province of Aklan, and the temporary closure of Boracay as a tourist destination to protect the health of the people, promote a healthy ecology, and take care of the nation’s marine wealth. It formalized the six-moth closure of the island to arrest the “human-induced hazards”, to protect and promote the health and well-being of its residents, workers, and tourists, massive cleanup, to fast track its rehabilitation in order to ensure the sustainability of the area, and to prevent further degradation of its rich ecosystem. A state of calamity in three barangays of Boracay (Balabag, Manoc-Manoc, and Yapak) was declared, notwithstanding the lapse of the six-month closure period.7 An estimated PHP1.9 billion will be spent for the 6 month-closure.11

Thereafter, Republic Act 9275 took effect, which required the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to act on problems of pollution and water quality, as well as the formation of the inter-agency task force to reveal problems and violations against environmental and health laws. Specifically, the DENR, through RA No. 9275:8

  1. shall designate water bodies, or portions thereof, where specific pollutants from either natural or man-made source have already exceeded water quality guidelines as non-attainment areas for the exceeded pollutants and shall prepare and implement a program that will not allow new sources of exceeded water pollutant in non-attainment areas without a corresponding reduction in discharges from existing sources; and,
  2. is mandated to coordinate with other concerned agencies and the private sectors, to take such measures as may be necessary to upgrade the quality of such waters in non-attainment areas to meet the standards under which it has been classified, and the local government units to prepare and implement contingency plans and other measures including relocation, whenever necessary, for the protection of the health and welfare of the residents within potentially affected areas.

In June 27, 2018, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) filed a complaint against 17 executive officials, including Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores and Malay Municipal Mayor Ciceron Cawaling on neglect over Boracay. The officials were alleged to have been lax in issuing building permits and to have failed to sufficiently handle illegal development activities on the island.

There are plans for the construction of a third sewerage plant in Barangay Yapak with a capacity of 5 million liters/day. This addition will allow more establishments in the Balabag area to connect to the sewer system.

Despite Boracay’s soft opening to tourism on October 26, 2018, rehabilitation works will continue on the island with its first phase to complete within October 2018. The second phase of rehabilitation is projected to last until mid-2019, and the third phase until the end of 2019.

The Department of Tourism (DoT) will prohibit smoking and drinking of alcohol in public places and the beaches of Boracay, though these activities would be allowed in designated areas, in an effort to reduce cigarette butts and shards from broken alcohol bottles in beaches. Large scale parties, such as “Laboracay”, which draws 60,000-70,000 tourists in 3 days, would no longer be allowed in the island.

Most of the information in this section were obtained from the Wikipedia page, “2018 Boracay closure and redevelopment”.9

THE BITTER PILL: THE DISADVANTAGES OF CLOSING BORACAY

The disadvantages of closing Boracay were:

1. Job loss for 36,000 employees – 19,000 in the formal sector (hotels, resorts, restaurants, dive shops, souvenir shops, tour activity centers, transport providers, etc.) and 17,000 in the informal sector (massage therapists, tattoo artists, vendors in the beach, etc.).Imagine, seven out of ten workers in Western Visayas are in Boracay!6

2. Loss of PHP56 billion tourism revenue, or about 20% of the country’s total tourism receipts7,9– There were 3.72 million people who went to Boracay in 2017, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.7

The government projected that there will be about PHP18-20 billion loss of potential gross receipts as a result of the 6 month-closure of Boracay. Tourist stakeholders in the island projected a loss of PHP30 billion as they estimated that 700,000 bookings by foreign tourists were cancelled in anticipation of the closure, according to the Wikipedia page, “2018 Boracay closure and redevelopment”.9

Airlines going to Boracay have cancelled flights, advised their passengers to rebook, or reroute affected flights, and anticipate losses for the next six months.6 These airlines mounted additional flights to other island destinations.

Almost 2,000 businesses in Boracay were definitely affected as well. Eleven hotels have stated that their combined losses can run up to PHP550 million a year.6

3. The island’s closure will also hit the economy of Aklan province since the large amount of produce and meat products brought to Boracay island usually come from the mainland.16

4. The government’s economic planners said the six-month closure will barely have an impact on tourism-driven growth.6 The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) claims that the revenues from Boracay account for 0.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)1to6 so it is estimated that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will decline by PHP1.96 billion.11

5. The closure of the island was indeed bad publicity for the Philippines. The Department of Tourism (DoT) ceased marketing Boracay and instead promoted alternative destinations in Western Visayas.6

The DoT needed to fast-track efforts to market alternative tourist destinations immediately after the announcement of the island’s closure. It also needed to have an aggressive marketing strategy when the island re-opens.

This is a challenge for DoT’s new Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat who assumed office on May 2018.

SO, WHAT HAPPENED IN BORACAY FROM APRIL 26 TILL OCTOBER 26, 2018?16

1. The island was totally closed for tourists. No tourists, whether domestic or foreign, were allowed to enter the island. They were stopped at the jetty port on Malay.

2. Residents, workers, and owners of commercial establishments were allowed entry to the island, subject to the presentation of identification cards with specific addresses in any of the three barangays affected by the closure.

3. All government-issued IDs were acceptable as long as they were accompanied with a barangay certification of residence.

4. Cavan Port was the only entry and exit point.11

5. No visitors of Boracay residents were allowed entry, except under emergency situations with the proper clearance of the Boracay Security Committee composed of representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the local government unit.

6. Foreign residents were revalidated by the Bureau of Immigration, and media were allowed entry, subject to prior approval from the Department of Tourism (DoT), with a definite duration and limited movement.

7. Swimming was not allowed anywhere in the island. However, residents were allowed to swim only at Angol Beach in Station 321, from 6am till 5 pm.

8. No floating structures were allowed up to 15 kilometers from the shoreline, including boats and personal water crafts (jet skis).11

9. Priority projects were building drainage, sewerage lines and water treatment facilities which could handle up to 115 tons of waste a day, 30 tons of which should be taken off the island. It was revealed that only 47% of the almost 2,000 commercial establishments in Boracay were connected to existing sewerage lines.

10. The State of Calamity fast tracked the island’s 6-month rehabilitation project – the demolition of illegal structures, proper waste disposal, widening of roads, reaccreditation of business establishments and strict implementation of sewerage treatment plants (STPs), pinpointing wetlands and their preservation, ensuring clean water to swim at the safe level of 400 MPN (most probable number) per 100 ml (milliliters)13, finding solutions for hauling garbage from the island and possible recycling strategies, etc.

11. The local government, and/or designated entity/entities were created and, henceforth, strictly enforced ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, zoning and construction, climate change, sustainable tourism and sustainable transportation.

12. Two billion pesos in “calamity funds” was targeted to help displaced workers. Government agencies, like the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), set-up measures/programs to aid displaced workers for six months.

According to DOLE, the Tulong Pangkabuhayan program was launched and provided the jobless 36,000 displaced employees with some financial assistance. The members of the 19,000 formal sector were given PHP24,000 for 6 months or PHP4,200 a month, while the members of the 17,000 informal sector were given PHP9,500 per month under a cash-for-work program.11

OTHER CONCERNS OF BORACAY ISLAND THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED ASAP:

1. GAMING IN BORACAY– GO OR NO GO? It was announced that AB Leisure Global Incorporated, a subsidiary of Leisure & Resorts World, formally applied for a license to operate a casino in Boracay as early as 2017. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)15, then signed an agreement with Galaxy Entertainment, a Macao-based casino operator, in partnership with Leisure & Resorts World Corporation, for a beachfront casino to be built on the island of Boracay, and was given a provisional gaming license, six days before President Duterte ordered the closure of the island.11

However, the President was quoted to say: “I will not allow gambling, I will not even give it to big business.”11

I saw in a television news program Malacañang’s announcement: “No casinos in Boracay, period.” Let us see if this project will push through or not.

2. BORACAY IS STATE-OWNED! Yes, dear Seniors! Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine, and as emphasized in recent jurisprudence, all lands not privately owned belong to the State.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Presidential Proclamation No. 1064 in 2006 which classified Boracay Island as a “forestland and agricultural land”.15 President Rodrigo Duterte said that the island has never been open to any “commercial exploitation” and remains as a “forestland and agricultural land”. No president has declared the island as a commercial area. Thus, a committee to facilitate the land distribution in Boracay, after the rehabilitation of the island, will be created. Definitely, ownership issues will arise once the government is done with its clean-up of the island.11 But President Duterte vowed to bring Boracay back to its original inhabitants.16

So, the entire island of Boracay is state-owned, except for lands already covered by existing valid titles.8 Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the Supreme Court has ruled that Boracay is state-owned on a 2008 ruling.11 President Duterte stressed that Boracay belongs to the Filipino people and he will be ready to declare the island as a land reform area once rehabilitated. He also warned businesses in Boracay not to derail efforts to rehabilitate the island. However, he said he would leave it to Congress to determine whether the island would be reclassified for commercial use, but wants Congress to restore Boracay “as a jewel of a destination for tourism”, restore its original beauty, and allow only a strip of commercial area.17

3. ANCESTRAL LAND – President Duterte also added that he would allow ancestral land occupants to benefit from the island.11

The government, in June 2018, announced that it will develop the Ati people’s 2 hectare (4.9 acres) ancestral land in Boracay into an agri-tourism area in an effort to integrate the Ati in the island’s tourism industry. The development will be part of the Department of Agriculture’s Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran ng Kababayang Katutubo (lit. Livelihood and Progress of Filipino Indigenous Peoples; 4Ks) program which was conceptualized by the department’s secretary Emmanuel Piñol. A greenhouse will be set up for vegetable cultivation and a goat farm for the production of milk. An organic restaurant, serving Ati cuisine, and a hostel, will also be set-up along the beach area to be run by members of the Ati people, according to the Wikipedia page, “2018 Boracay closure and redevelopment”.9

BOTTOMLINE:

“Cleaning Boracay is a ‘moral obligation’ because the island is deemed the ‘crown jewel’ of Philippine tourist destinations.” – President Rodrigo Duterte.11

“Tourism is important, but we need to preserve these spaces for our future generations, for future livelihoods.” –ThonThamrongnawasawat, a marine expert in Bangkok.18

The Boracay closure is a bitter pill for all stakeholders, even for just 6 months, but it is the only way for nature to heal somehow. This, however, does not mean that healing is complete, so rehabilitation will definitely be an on-going and sustainable effort!

AND, FINALLY:

This is a wake-up call to other island-destinations in the Philippines. Better get your act together since the government will definitely go, visit, inspect, and check on the status of your destinations! It is just a matter of time.

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1Station 2 is the central part of White Beach19 in the island of Boracay. The water is less shallow than Station120. It offers an active night life (bars and clubs that may offer live music), mid-range priced accommodations, and is known as the shopping area of the island, what with D’Malland D’Talipapa (an area which offers local souvenir items, plusa seafood wet market with nearby restaurants to cook your picks).

2Willy’s Rock is a natural volcanic rock formation along Station 120 of Boracay which is considered an iconic landmark of the island and is popular especially among Catholic tourists since it has a statue of the Virgin Mary carved from the rock several steps up. Its name comes from nearby Willy’s Beach Club Hotel.

Senior tourists, the steps might be slippery so be sure of your footing and wear non-slip footwear. Expect it to be crowded during peak season with non-stop picture taking all around.

3Jonah’s Fruit Shake is a popular beachfront snack house in Barangay Balabag, Boracay, for more than 2 decades, and offers, among others, rich and refreshing fruit shakes. It is dubbed as “The Best Fruit Shake in the Island”.

4Halomango is an ice cream and halo-halo house in D’Mall5, Balabag, Boracay, open from 9 am till 12 am. Good news, loyal customers, they just opened a branch in Panglao, Bohol.22

5D’Mall is the original open-air shopping area located in Station 21,Boracay, which offers various shops and restaurants.

6www.straitstimes.com

7www.abs-cbn.com

8www.officialgazette.gov.ph

9”2018 Boracay closure and redevelopment,” accessed September 8, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boracay_closure_and_redevelopment

10”Boracay,” accessed August 8, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boracay

11www.philstar.com

12www.cnnphilippines.com

13www.pna.gov.ph

14www.ocd.gov.ph

15The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is the government- owned/controlled corporation mandated to generate revenues for the government’s socio-civic programs, to operate and regulate games of chance in the country, and to help boost the tourism industry, according to the Wikipedia page “Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation”.23

16www.news.abs-cbn.com

17www.gmanetwork.com

18www.reuters.com

19The White Beachof Boracay refers to the main, biggest, and most popular beach area of island. It is divided into Stations 1, 2 and 3.19, 1, 20

20Station 1 is the north end of White Beach19 of Boracay which is where the luxurious resorts are located. This station’s beach front is wider, the sand seems whiter, and the water is shallower, compared to the two other stations. It is a quiet station at night, although it has clubs within walking distance. Willy’s Rock2, a natural rock formation and an iconic Boracay landmark, is located in this station. The sand castle designed with “Boracay” and the current date, where one can pose for a picture, for a fee, is also found along the shore in this station. City Mall Boracay, which opened on February 25, 201716, is likewise located here.

21Station 3, located at the opposite end of Station 120 of Boracay’s White Beach19, is known to offer budget accommodations, but also features boutique and other secluded/high-end accommodations. The water here becomes suddenly deep. It is a quiet station, compared to the first 2 stations, although it offers some bars and clubs too.

22https://www.facebook.com/halowich2020/

23 “Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation”, accessed September 8, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Amusement_and_Gaming_Corporation

Say, Say, Say: WHAT CAN WE EXPECT DURING THE REOPENING OF BORACAY ON OCTOBER 26, 2018?

I am so sure a lot of Filipino and foreign tourists are eager to return to Boracay, starting on its reopening date – October 26, 2018, to see and appreciate the changes in the island. First timers must likewise be looking forward to finally seeing Boracay.

Here are some relevant details which I researched to-date and my comments:

1.The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) recently announced that Boracay should have 19,000 tourist carrying capacity per day, based on the number of workers and the local population. The island can only accommodate a total of 55,000 people (local population, workers and tourists, combined).

So, better book ahead of time! See a related post: Short and Simple: WHAT IS THE TOURIST CARRYING CAPACITY FOR BORACAY’S 2018 RE-OPENING?

2. A dry run is scheduled from October 15 – October 25, 2018. It will be open to local tourists, with priority given to Aklanons, in order to assess what else needs to be done before the island is reopened to all tourists, both domestic and foreign, on October 26.3

Great idea! Aklanons, the residents of the province of Aklan where the town of Malay is located, should indeed be given priority and their inputs, as stakeholders, would surely be valuable prior to Boracay’s formal opening date.

3. The government will publish a list of establishments that are compliant with environmental laws to make sure that only these businesses can accept tourists.1

The public must, therefore, wait for that list and book rooms only from such newly accredited establishments. Government authorities, please release the list asap so those eager to visit the island can make the necessary bookings since only a limited number of lodging establishments have been accredited to-date. I am calling on the website administrators of the local government unit and Department of Tourism (DoT)-Region VI and Malay offices to feature the accredited list for interested Boracay visitors, and to update it regularly to be tourist-friendly.

4. Only about 3,000-5,000 of the total 15,000 hotel rooms can be made available to tourists during the reopening date. The rest still need to comply with the new permits and accreditation requirements set by the multi-agency task force.1An estimated 50% (7,500 rooms) of the actual room capacity of the island is expected to be available by the end of 2018, according to DoT Regional Director Helen Catalbas.

Dear tourists, be sure to book with newly accredited establishments only.

5. Big and noisy parties, like the summer festivity marking Labor Day, “LaBoracay” will no longer be allowed since the latter recorded 40,000-50,000 tourist arrivals, and resulted in over 100,000 people in the island at a time, nearly double Boracay’s total carrying capacity. Only smaller parties will be allowed so the rest of the island visitors will enjoy peace and quiet!

Let’s reinvent “fun” in the island! There’s more fun in rehabilitated Boracay!

6. Smoking and drinking along theWhite Beach4 of Boracay will no longer be allowed. These activities will be allowed only in designated areas in hotels, resorts or similar forms of accommodation, and other hospitality establishments.1The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) announced that White Beach is already clean.

I can’t wait to walk on this clean powdery white sand beach!

7. The municipality of Malay, to where Boracay belongs, passed Municipal Ordinance No. 386, Series of 2018, which prohibits the use of single-use, or disposable, plastic items by hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other related establishments.2

Welcome news, indeed! This leads to crucial questions like:should plastic be totally banned from the island? how about biodegradable plastics? The local government should provide segregated-style garbage cansin various areas, so tourists can properly dispose of their garbage in designated containers/areas only. Stiff fines for littering, especially on the beach, should also be set. How about bringing personal water bottles while going around the island? Dear tourists, do you have other suggestions on how we can help in this regard?

8. By the end of July 2018, road clearing and demotion of structures for the road widening project was about 85% complete, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The PHP490 million rehabilitation of the 4.12-km main road from Cagban Jetty Port, 5 minutes away from the Caticlan Airport (where boats leave for Boracay island), to the Elizalde property was 15% complete.2

So, early tourists, some roads will still be unfinished during reopening date; please be patient. But no worries, the 4-km White Beach4 will be open just for you! Your required daily 10,000 steps, when taken along this white sand beach, will surely not only be healthful for you, but memorable as well, with lots of selfies and group pictures, from sunrise to sunset!

9. Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III announced that rehabilitation will continue in the island and this includes the improvement in the quality of the water around the island. By the end of June 2018, the formerly brown and stinking water of Bulabog Beach5 was already “bluish” and with no unpleasant smell.3

Wonderful news indeed, especially for budget tourists, kiteboarders, windsurfers and scuba divers who go to Bulabog Beach.

10. The Environmental Management Bureau-Western Visayas (EMB-6) conducted daily and weekly statistics lab laboratory tests of the island’s water quality. The level of coliform concentration of the water in the front beach was already at the safe level of 400 MPN (most probable number) per 100 ml (milliliters).2

Thank you, EMB-6! Please continue to regularly monitor the water quality of the island!

11. Demolition activities, for the widening of roads, were about 65% complete as of end of June 2018.3 These involved removal of establishments which illegally encroached: on the 25+5 meter easement on the shore, on the water, forestlands, and wetlands.

This is great for Boracay’s sustainable tourism9!

12. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ordered all hotels, from Stations 16, 27 and 38 with 50 rooms and above, to have their own sewage treatment plants (STPs). Accommodations with less than 50 rooms were instructed to have a clustered STP, or opt to have their own STPs. Other sewage lines are still being laid out.

The two water suppliers, Boracay Island Water Co. and Boracay Tubi Systems Inc., were ordered to expand the capacity of their respective STPs, and were encouraged to explore the best approaches and solutions to their sewage and wastewater problems. The sewage pipeline of Boracay Island Water Co., which serviced 4 large establishments and 76 smaller ones, was decommissioned since it violated the 25+5-meter easement rule and the no-build zone along the shoreline.

The total STP capacity of Boracay is only 12 million liters per day (MLD) but the wastewater to be treated is 15 MLD, and more than 200 big establishments are still not connected to the sewer lines.10 

Hurry up, big and small establishments! To the two water suppliers, please comply with set STP rules and regulations. To DENR, please closely, and regularly, monitor their lines and adherence to rules/regulations.

13.  About 8 international cruise ships have already scheduled stops in Boracay from when it reopens till 2019, according to Department of Tourism-Western Visayas (DoT-6) Regional Director Helen J. Catalbas (e.g., Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Star Cruises). They have been cleared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regarding potential damage to underwater reefs. DENR explained that corals thrive in shallow waters, while cruise ships drop anchor in deeper parts of the sea. Thus, the anchorage of cruise ships will not cause damage to the corals.10

I am calling on the authorities to monitor these ships on our waters come the reopening period and beyond!Please provide the appropriate water transportation and trained personnel to access such waters, monitor these cruise ships, and ensure that they will not dump any waste/garbage in our seas while they are anchored in our waters!

14. Only electric tricycles (e-trikes) will be allowed in Boracay when it reopens. In this regard, the Department of Energy (DOE) initially donated 50 new e-trikes with long-lasting batteries, during the 2nd week of September 2018. to augment the 50 existing e-trikes on the island. This move aimed for an efficient and environment-friendly mode of transportation in Boracay. Each unit can carry 6-8 passengers. An extra battery was also given per unit to spare current tricycle drivers downtime when they start using them.The DOE will also deploy some electric passenger jeepneys on the island within September. Old tricycles will be phased out on the island in compliance with Executive Order No. 007-2018 issued by Malay Major Ceciron Cawaling. About a thousand tricycles in Boracay will be taken out of the island and changed to e-trikes, and brought to mainland Malay, particularly to

Great news for our lungs! Less air pollution!

15. The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force will formulate policies that will ensure that the rehabilitation efforts of the island can be sustained.2  

Hurray for sustainable tourism9!

16. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Presidential Proclamation No. 1064 in 2006 which classified Boracay Island as a “forestland and agricultural land”.1President Rodrigo Duterte said that the island has never been open to any “commercial exploitation” and remains as a “forestland and agricultural land”. No president has declared the island as a commercial area. Thus, a committee to facilitate the land distribution in Boracay, after the rehabilitation of the island, will be created. Definitely, ownership issues will arise once the government is done with its clean-up of the island.10 But President Duterte vowed to bring Boracay back to its original inhabitants.

The rights of the original ethnic inhabitants must be respected!

17. President Duterte ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to study how land could be redistributed to the locals through land reform. He said only the beach front can be used for commercial purposes but the rest of the island would be subjected to land reform. Some 400 hectares of forestland will be restored by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), according to DAR Secretary John Castriciones.1 The latter said that about 20-25 hectares are ready for redistribution but that the other agricultural lots will take time because there are structures built on this government land.

Just give what is due the original inhabitants!

Bottomline, the DILG and DOT want Boracay to be clean and become a peaceful and enjoyable island get-away.1 DOT Regional Director Helen Catalbas said Boracay is envisioned to have “a very clean beach, wider streets and less potholes.” The reopening will be “low key” because “rehabilitation is a work in progress.”2

So, what can we expect when Boracay reopens come October 26, 2018? Well, based on the above, we will be looking forward to:

  1. A cleaner and more peaceful white sand beach with the correct easement of 25+5 meters for all to enjoy without any obstruction — good for walks from sunrise till sunset;
  2. Clean water to swim in, without fear of coliform or illegal sewage disposal;
  3. The strict implementation of the tourist carrying capacity, i.e., only 19,000 tourists per day in the island;
  4. Wider paved streets with sidewalks for pedestrians;
  5. A better drainage system and preservation of wetlands that are well-maintained so that the streets will not be easily flooded;
  6. E-jeepneys and E-trikes as public transportation so there will be less air pollution;
  7. The two water suppliers, Boracay Island Water Co. and Boracay Tubi Systems Inc., will get their act together to ensure a proper and safe sewerage system;
  8. A more conscious and responsible community (tourists, businesses, employees and local residents) united to protect the environment and follow rules and regulations for sustainable tourism9;
  9. Eventually, all commercial establishments, owners and employees, will comply with the government requirements to operate;
  10. No casino in the island! President Duterte said “There will never be one!” and that gambling has “deleterious effects” and should be reduced to the “barest minimum”;11
  11. A more responsible local government which will be strict in enforcing rules and regulations set by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force;
  12. A more understanding, cooperative and responsible domestic or foreign tourist who appreciates the efforts of the national/local government so s/he will not mind stricter rules/regulations as well as on-going rehabilitation projects in the island for the rest of 2018, or until all rehabilitation plans have been implemented;
  13. An island which is still being rehabilitated and starting to recover, or “heal”, from mass tourism and environmental problems;
  14. A successful sustainable tourism9 and sustainable transportation12 program for the island, and for the next generations to enjoy as well; and,
  15. An island for the aborigines who may have been displaced due to mass tourism. The government, once and for all, should clear all land title issues and give the aborigines what is rightfully theirs, extend all possible assistance for their decent livelihood, and a better future for their next generations!

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1www.news.abs-cbn.com

2www.pna.gov.ph

3www.denr.gov.ph

4The White Beach of Boracay refers to the main, biggest, and most popular beach area of island. It is divided into Stations 1, 2 and 3.6, 7, 8

5Bulabog Beach is the second most popular beach in Boracay since it is the main windsurfing and kiteboarding area, particularly from October till May, with just the right strength of the wind and waves. Scuba diving is also offered in this beach, located at the eastern part of Boracay. It is located at the opposite end of White Beach4, about 5 minutes walking distance from D’Mall in Station 27.

6Station 1 is the north end of White Beach4 of Boracay which is where the luxurious resorts are located. This station’s beach front is wider, the sand seems whiter, and the water is shallower, compared to the two other stations. It is a quiet station at night, although it has clubs within walking distance. Willy’s Rock, a natural rock formation and an iconic Boracay landmark, is located in this station. The sand castle designed with “Boracay” and the current date, where one can pose for a picture, for a fee, is also found in this station. City Mall Boracay, which opened on February 25, 20171, is likewise located here.

7Station 2 is the central part of White Beach4 in the island of Boracay. The water is less shallow than Station1. It offers an active night life (bars and clubs that may offer live music), mid-range priced accommodations, and is known as the shopping area of the island, what with D’Mall (the original shopping area in Boracay), and D’Talipapa (an area which offers local souvenir items, plusa seafood wet market with nearby restaurants to cook your picks).

8Station 3 is located at the opposite end of Station 16 of Boracay’s White Beach4, known to offer budget accommodations, but also features boutique and other secluded/high-end accommodations. The water becomes suddenly deep. It is a quiet station, compared to the first 2 stations, although it offers some bars and clubs too.

9Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a destination as a tourist and trying to make a positive impact on the environment13, society, and economy. Tourism development should always be sustainable but how to achieve this is debatable, according to Wikipedia page “Sustainable tourism”.14

10www.philstar.com

11www.bworldonline.com

12Sustainable transportation, or sustainable mobility, refers to transportation that is sustainable in terms of social, environmental and climate impacts, and the ability to, in the global scope, supply the source energy indefinitely, according to the Wikipedia page “Sustainable transport”.15

13The impact on the environment, or environmental issues, refers to the harmful effects of human activity on the biophysical environment16, according to the Wikipedia page “Environmental issue.”17

14“Sustainable tourism,” accessed August 16, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_tourism.

15“Sustainable transport,” accessed August 16, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_transport.

16The human impact on the environment includes the changes to biophysical environments18 and ecosystems19, biodiversity20, and natural resources, caused directly or indirectly by humans, including global warming21, environmental degradation22, mass extinction and biodiversity loss, ecological crises, and ecological collapse, according to the Wikipedia page “Human impact on the environment”.23

17“Environmental issue,” accessed August 16, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_issue.

18A biophysical environment of a population refers to the (living and non-living) surroundings of a population, and consequently includes the factors that have an influence in its survival, development and evolution, according to the Wikipedia page “Biophysical environment”.24

19An ecosystem is a community made up of living organisms and non-living components (air, mineral soil and water), according to the Wikipedia page “Ecosystem”.25

20Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth, according to the Wikipedia page “Biodiversity”.26

21Global warming, or climate change, is the observed century-scale rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system and its related effects, according to the Wikipedia page “Global warming”.27

22Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through the depletion of resources such as air, soil and water; the destruction of ecosystems20; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution, according to the Wikipedia page “Environmental degradation”.28

23“Human impact on the environment,” accessed August 16, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_impact_on_the_environment.

24“Biophysical environment,” accessed August 16, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biophysical_environment.

25“Ecosystem,” accessed August 16, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecosystem.

26“Biodiversity,” accessed August 16, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiversity.

27“Global warming,” accessed August 16, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming.

28“Environmental degradation,” accessed August 16, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_degradation.

Say, Say, Say: ISN’T IT ABOUT TIME TO HAVE A SEA TRAVELLER BILL OF RIGHTS AND A BILL OF RIGHTS FOR LAND TRANSPORT COMMUTERS IN THE PHILIPPINES?

Hello there, Wandering Filipino Senior Citizens (SCs)! I hope you have read and know more about the Bill of Rights for Air Passengers and Carrier Obligations in a previous post. Remember, we have the right to travel, as stated in our constitution1.

RIGHT TO TRAVEL

 The right to travel is a basic human right encompassing the right of individuals to travel from place to place within a territory of a country and to leave the country and return to it, according to the Wikipedia page “Freedom of Movement”.2 However, visas and other related requirements could restrict people from entering some countries but as long as these are met, they can visit such destinations.

RIGHT OF FILIPINOS TO TRAVEL

Section 6, Article III (Bill of Rights), of the 1987 Philippine constitution states that “… Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.”3

FILIPINO SEA TRAVELER BILL OF RIGHTS

Your 12 rights as an air passenger are all in “black and white” and I am sure all airlines will follow all provisions therein and we are all protected of such rights. See a related post: Smart Senior: THE AIR PASSENGER BILL OF RIGHTS OF THE PHILIPPINES

But how about our rights as sea travelers? Unfortunately there is still no Bill of Rights for the Filipino Sea Travelers to protect the latter from bad practices of shipping companies.

Let’s face it – most domestic maritime passengers belong to the less-privileged class who cannot afford to use an airplane. Whenever I watch the daily news, my heart goes out to all such passengers who sleep in the terminals, stranded due to delayed or cancelled trips (especially during typhoon season, Christmas, Holy Week and All Saints’ Day), and who barely have food to eat due to their limited budgets. They have no choice when trips are cancelled by the Philippine Coast Guard when travelers are already in seaports. They just have to be patient and wait for the storm to leave and for ships to eventually be allowed to sail – this could take days or even a week!

Worst, for sea mishaps, what are the rights of the survivors and families of passengers who perished? We have heard of their need for monetary assistance and the inadequacy of shipping companies to meet their needs on time.

It’s a nightmare to think that the bill of rights have not been made by authorities and stakeholders. I have heard of this bill was supposed to have been drafted on 20124 – that was six years ago!

Remember, our beloved country is an archipelago, with 7,641 islands (yes, we have more islands now, no longer 7,100 islands, please refer my post: Short and Simple: EXACTLY HOW MANY ISLANDS ARE THERE IN THE PHILIPPINES?). Obviously, the easiest and most reasonable inter-island transport is still public water transportation. Traveling by sea especially during “ber” months amidst rough seas is indeed a badge of courage!

I know there is a Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rightsfor passengers of an oceangoing cruise on any CLIA6-member cruise liner worldwide. The people responsible for setting the Bill of Rights for the Filipino Sea Travelers could benchmark from this international bill of rights but must add other provisions, e.g., for cancelled trips due to the bad weather to make the stranded sea passengers comfortable and safe in ports/nearby accommodations.

Wake up, wake up, major industry stakeholders: the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and domestic shipping companies. Please get your act together! Perhaps even PAGASA7 could be requested to join the stakeholders for timely weather forecasts/advisories, amidst climate change. It has been 6 years since these rights were raised! It is rainy season now and domestic sea travelers are still not protected!

FILIPINO LAND TRANSPORT COMMUTER BILL OF RIGHTS

And, while I am at it, how about a Bill of Rights for Land Transport Commuters for those riding jeepneys, buses, taxis, Grab, LRT/MRT and other forms of public land transportation?

I pity the bus commuters who, eager to go back to the province during long weekend holidays and important holidays of the year, get stranded in bus terminals, and do not have extra money for an unanticipated stay due to countless reasons for delayed trips. They are victims of abusive operators and drivers, etc. Sigh …

BOTTOMLINE:

The Philippine land transport commuter/sea passenger has rights and all these must be encapsulated in appropriate Bill of Rights!

I am also calling on Senator Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares (Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services), Congressman Cesar V. Sarmiento (District Representative, Lone District of Catanduanes, the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation), and Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Arthur P. Tugade, to help fast track the Bill of Rights for the Filipino Sea Travelers which could be based on the CLIA’s 10-point Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights5 and Bill of Rights for Air Passengers and Carrier Obligations.

Dearest Senior Citizens, let us pray that these bills of rights will be passed during our lifetime. Harsh words to say on my end but perhaps this post will be a small voice appealing to all government authorities and stakeholders concerned.

Do you have your own inputs regarding the bill of rights of passengers by land, water or air? I would love to hear from you. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”.

Follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device and do not forget to click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Thank you.

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1www.senate.gov.ph

2“Freedom of Movement”, accessed July 10, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_Movement.

3www.dotr.gov.ph

4www.news.abs-cbn.com

5TheCruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rightsis a set of 10-passenger rights developed by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)6, adopted by all member-oceangoing cruise liners: (1) The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard, subject only to the Master’s concern for passenger safety and security and customs and immigration requirements of the port. (2) The right to a full refund for a trip that is cancelled due to mechanical failures, or a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early due to those failures. (3) The right to have available on board ships operating beyond rivers or coastal waters full-time, professional emergency medical attention, as needed until shore side medical care becomes available. (4) The right to timely information updates as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency, as well as timely updates of the status of efforts to address mechanical failures. (5) The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures. (6) The right to an emergency power source in the case of a main generator failure. (7) The right to transportation to the ship’s scheduled port of disembarkation or the passenger’s home city, in the event a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures. (8) The right to lodging if disembarkation and an overnight stay in an unscheduled port are required when a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures. (9)The right to have included on each cruise line’s website a toll-free phone line that can be used for questions or information concerning any aspect of shipboard operations. (10) The right to have this Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each line’s website.6

6CLIA is the abbreviation for Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association worldwide, with members like Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean, among others. It supports policies and practices that foster a safe, secure, healthy and sustainable cruise ship environment and is dedicated to promoting the cruise travel experience. Visit its website: www.cruising/org.

7Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) is the government agency responsible not only for weather forecasting and advisories in the Philippines but also promotes national progress as well as protects against natural calamities and insure the safety, well-being and economic security of all Filipinos through scientific and technological services in meteorology, hydrology, climatology, astronomy and other geophysical sciences. Visit its website: www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph.

Say, Say, Say: VERY OLD TREES ALONG THE MAIN STREET OF STA. CRUZ, LAGUNA

Hey, dearest Seniors, did you recite the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer when you were small like me in the 1960s? Let’s see if you remember the words: “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree; a tree whose hungry mouth is prest against the earth’s sweet flowing breast; a tree that looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray; a tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair; upon whose bosom snow has lain, who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

Every time I pass by the main street of Sta, Cruz, Laguna, I appreciate the very old trees planted in front of the Laguna Capitol Compound all the way to Pedro Guevarra Memorial High School.

Recently, the sidewalk was improved and cemented. I am not a tree doctor nor an agriculturist, but when I look at each old tree, most of them seem to be sick or dying, or at least at high-risk from street “beautification” and people. Two of the old trees are hollow and one is even stuffed with garbage. So sad! I am sure that if Joyce Kilmer were still alive, he would certainly share my sadness when he sees these trees.

Tree-1

Tree-2

Tree-3

Tree-4

Tree-5

Tree-6

Tree-7

Tree-8

Tree-9

I do not know how old the trees are but I was also able to take the pictures above to call the attention of the following authorities:

  1. the foresters of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Region IV-A;
  2. retired forest pathologist Dr. Ernesto Militante, from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños,who applied a solution to heal the girdled trees along the Manila North Road in Binalonan, Pangasinan1;
  3. retired forester and silviculturist2 Roger de Guzman, also from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños;
  4. Mutya Manalo, a professor at the College of Forestry and Natural Resources. University of the Philippines, Los Baños;
  5. the local government of the town of Sta. Cruz (in the province of Laguna) to take care of the old trees amidst “beautification” projects, upon consultation with tree experts; and,
  6. organizations like the Philippine Federation for Environmental Concerns (PFEC)3 and the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE)4.

Please come soon and visit these roadside trees and assess their status – healthy, diseased or defective. Do you have a diagnostic tool to determine the state of health of the trees? I pray you have a radar imaging system, or even more advanced diagnostic tools, to get a high resolution, non-invasive image of the internal structure of the trees and its root mass, in order to assess the health and structural integrity of the trees.

I hope the trees can still be brought to a healthier state, or heal, if they are sick, diseased, or need tree surgery. Perhaps proper pruning could be done at the start of this rainy season, so they will not pose any danger to pedestrians and motorists.

Seniors, do you remember our elementary science lessons about trees? They give us shade and fruits, absorb carbon dioxide, and release the oxygen which we breathe, and even stabilize the soil, among others. A good website post is www.treepeople.org’s 22 benefits of trees.

A busy town like Sta. Cruz, the capital of the province of Laguna, must treasure trees since they: improve the air quality; absorb the excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, remove and store the carbon and release oxygen back into the air; clean the air when they absorb odors and pollutant gases and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and barks; cool the streets by up to 10°F, thereby breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves; lower stress; boost happiness; reduce flood risks; shield children from UV-B exposure; cut air-conditioning needs of nearby buildings by 30%; heal (patients heal faster seeing trees from their windows; children with ADHD show fewer symptoms) and reduce mental fatigue; reduce violence and fear; provide urban homes for birds and bees; muffle the sound from the streets; are eye-soothing; and, absorb dust and wind, and reduce glare.5

By the way, this blog post is written in honor of World Environment Day (June 5) which aims to raise awareness of the importance of respecting and protecting the environment.

I am not a die-hard environmentalist (I do not even belong to any organization), I am not a poet (who can write poems for trees), I am not God (who is the only One who can make a tree). I am a Senior Citizen who is no fool and who wants to save very old trees through her blog! Healthy trees for a healthier town! Achieve!

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1www.pangasinan.gov.ph

2A silviculturist is a person who studied forestry and is involved in the cultivation of trees.

3The Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern (PFEC) is a network of concerned individuals, non-government organizations and people-organizations concerned with environmental issues, established in 1979. It promotes and develops environmental consciousness among Filipinos; unites and coordinates with local communities in their efforts for environmental protection and natural resources management; and, joins in national and worldwide environmental action. Visit the Facebook account: Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern.

4The Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), founded in 1992, is an organization which helps mitigate the destruction of the natural resources of the Philippines. It leads actions in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development towards healthy ecosystems and resilient communities. It is committed to build constituencies and capacities for the environment, promote responsive policies and actions for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Visit the website: www.fpe.ph

5www.treepeople.org

Say Say Say: IMPORTANT DATES DEDICATED TO SENIORS FOR MORE FAMILY BONDING TIME

“After a lifetime of working, raising families, and contributing to the success of this nation in countless other ways, senior citizens deserve to retire with dignity.” – Charlie Gonzalez

Medical technology has advanced and we, the seniors of today, are given a longer chance of staying on this planet to reach a ripe old age. Just imagine us living in the Late Middle Ages, life expectancy then was only 30 years old! Oh my, I got married at that age and was enjoying my teaching career! In the 1950s, the average expectancy was 48 years old worldwide, and in 2014, it extended to 71.5 years, more than double than that of our medieval counterparts!1

I believe that Senior Citizens must be “showered” (not only given) all the love and care by the younger generations. In turn, Seniors will share their wisdom, stories, and experience. One can never honor the elderly enough!

So, younger generations, listen up! Here are several important days of the year, depending on your country, that celebrate the lives of your beloved Seniors. I arranged it chronologically by month. Log them in your calendars and plan how you can show the elders in your family that you care. Show your appreciation for them while you still can. You never know when God will need them back. Sad but true.

You can plan a short vacation or at least an overnight stay somewhere new to them or somewhere special to them, eat out with the whole family in their favorite restaurants, take them shopping, find time to spend the day with them and make them feel important and loved, or if you are so far away and cannot join them, call them, video chat, text them, email them, or be old school and send them a card by snail mail. Always remember, tomorrow is not promised and today is short. Here are special senior days worldwide, and I bet that you do not know all of them:

1. OLDER AMERICANS MONTH (OAM) – This is celebrated every month of May in the USA to honor (65-yo) adults and their contributions, especially those who defended the country. This was declared by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The 2018 theme is: Engage at Every Age to emphasize that one is never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich one’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being, as well as celebrate the many ways in which older adults make a difference in their communities. Visit the website of the Administration for Community Living (ACL): oam.acl.gov.

2. MOTHER’S DAY – This annual celebration honors the mother/s of the family, observed worldwide, most commonly on the months of March and May. Most countries celebrate it every second Sunday of May, so it will be held on: May 13, 2018, May 12, 2019, and May 10, 2020. It was founded by Anna Jarvis of West Virginia, as a memorial for her mother, and first celebrated in 1908.

Actually, dearest Filipinos, Mother’s Day was officially proclaimed to be held every first Monday of December, together with Father’s Day, as proclaimed by President Joseph Estrada in 1998, but this date is not considered a public holiday. However, due to our strong American influence, we celebrate it as stated above. Regardless of the date of observance worldwide, it is said to be too commercialized, but what the heck, children, at least pamper your mothers once a year!

Before I leave this special occasion, I know what some inquisitive-but-still-active Senior-minds are asking: “Tita S, really? Why was it proclaimed to be held on the first Monday of December?” Well, dearest Seniors, Governor-General Charles Yeater made the original declaration in 1921, as per clamor of the Ilocos Norte Federation of Women’s Clubs for Mother’s Day to be held on the first Monday of December. President Manuel Quezon then renamed it as Parent’s Day to honor fathers as well, and President Estrada returned the dates during his term, after President Corazon Aquino separated Mother’s and Father’s Day and changed the dates to those observed by the Americans. All the information is according to the Wikipedia page, “Mother’s Day”.2

Question: Why do our presidents keep on changing the dates and the titles of these special occasions? Gosh, dear Seniors, in our lifetime, these occasions were changed three times, so how do they expect us to remember which is when? Hay!

3. NATIONAL SENIOR HEALTH & FITNESS DAY – This is celebrated every last Wednesday of May so that the elderly can participate in various health and fitness activities, usually held in US hospitals, senior centers, parks and recreational sites. Organized as a private-public partnership by the Mature Market Resource Center, a national information clearinghouse for the older adult market, it will be held on May 30, 2018, marking its special 25th anniversary celebration.3

4. JUNE 1 –GLOBAL DAY OF PARENTS/PARENTS’ DAY – This annual celebration was declared by the United Nations “to appreciate all parents in all parts of the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship”.

It is held the same day as International Children’s Day so why not celebrate this day as a family – parents, children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren!

It was officially proclaimed to be observed every first Monday of December in the Philippines. (Please refer to item #2 – Mothers Day).  It is held every fourth Sunday of July in the USA (per Congressional Resolution signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton) and will be held on July 22, 2018. It has a fixed date, on May 8, in South Korea. All the information is according to the Wikipedia page, “Parents’ Day”.4

5. FATHER’S DAY – This annual celebration honoring fathers and fatherhood is observed worldwide, but dates vary per country. It started, and was celebrated, in Catholic Europe during the Middle Ages during the feast of Saint Joseph, on March 19. In the USA, it was first held on July 5, 1908, by the Central United Methodist Church in West Virginia. Most countries, like the Philippines, celebrate it every third Sunday of June, so it will be celebrated on: June 17, 2018, June 16, 2019, and June 21, 2020. All the information is according to the Wikipedia page, “Father’s Day”.5

Take note, Filipinos, Father’s Day is officially recognized every first Monday of December, together with Mother’s Day, but due to our strong American influence, we celebrate it as stated above.

6. JULY 23 – NATIONAL GORGEOUS GRANDMA DAY – Now, Senior Grannies, this is amusing indeed! This is the upgraded version of Grandparents’ Day. Younger generations, tell and remind your Grandma, Nana, Granny, Lola, Mamita, or whatever term of endearment you call her, that she is precious, special, and beautiful in your eyes! Do it daily and see how her eyes light up right after you tell her so. People use the hashtag #GorgeousGrandma on this day, along with pictures dining out, or in a special destination, together with their gorgeous grandmas.6

7. JULY 30 – FATHER-IN-LAW DAY6 – Well, if there is a Mother-in-law Day, we certainly must have this special day! Celebrate this day based on his passion, hobbies, favorite restaurant, etc. Ladies, if you are happily married, this is a way to show your gratitude that he raised a good son like your husband. If not, proceed to #8! LOL

8. AUGUST 21 – SENIOR CITIZENS DAY – This was declared by US President Ronald Reagan through Proclamation 5847 in 1988, to raise awareness of, and honor the contributions of, American Senior Citizens (SCs). It is not a public holiday but it is observed throughout the USA through social gatherings and activities, recognizing the achievements of SCs.6

So, American Keepers of Wisdom, why don’t you plan a trip to the Philippines while you are still in better health? You do not need a visa if you will stay for a maximum of 30 days. Read a related post: (I will place here the link for – Foreign Seniors Ask: re Philippine Visa)

9. NATIONAL GRANDPARENTS DAY – This is an international, annual, secular holiday celebrated in various countries. It was first celebrated in the USA in 1978, founded by Marian McQuade of Oak Hill, West Virginia, to encourage families to visit their elders. It then spread to other countries but is celebrated on various dates (Google dates per country). In the USA, it is celebrated the first Sunday after Labor Day, in September, so, it will be celebrated on: September 9, 2018; September 8, 2019, and September 13, 2020. All these are according to the Wikipedia page, “National Grandparents Day”.7

10. RESPECT FOR THE AGED DAY– This is a national Japanese public holiday, held every third Monday of September, to honor elderly citizens, so it will be celebrated on: September 17, 2018, September 16, 2019, and September 21, 2020. Tracing its origins to 1947, it was first held on September 15, 1966, when Nomadani-mura of the Hyogo Prefecture proclaimed September 15 as Old Folks’ Day (Toshiyori no Hi). Nowadays, media highlights the oldest people in the country, according to the Wikipedia page, “Respect for the Aged Day”.8

 11. OCTOBER 1 – INTERNATIONAL DAY OF OLDER PERSONS – This occasion was first observed on October 1, 1991 by all United Nations member states to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly as well as to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society, according to the Wikipedia page, “International Day of Older Persons”.9

So, mark October 1 yearly in your calendars. Seniors can also plan to bond among themselves on this day to be thankful for, and to honor, old age, for this is not a gift given to everyone. Shouldn’t old age be considered an asset and not a liability?

12. OCTOBER 1-7: ELDERLY FILIPINO WEEK (LINGGO NG NAKATATANDANG FILIPINO) – A week-long celebration in the Philippines, as per Presidential Proclamation No. 470, to emphasize the important role of older people in nation building, as well as to raise awareness, and to address issues concerning this sector. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), PhilHealth, local government units (LGUs), senior citizen associations and other government agencies organize activities for the elderly.10

13. MOTHER-IN-LAW DAY – There are countless jokes about mothers-in-law but come to think of it, it is not easy to be one. Regardless of your relationship with your mother-in-law, would it not be awesome to remember her at least once a year for her role in your life? Think about it, she raised the man you married (and I hope you are still happily married to him)! Anyway, it was first celebrated on March 5, 1934 in Amarillo, Texas, USA, by the editor of the local Amarillo newspaper. Oh, well, based on my personal experience, this day is not as popular as Mother’s Day because I am sure a lot of the female readers of this post do not even know or celebrate this day, right? Well, it is never too late, surprise your mother-in-law on October 28, 2018, and every fourth Sunday of October thereafter! Do not forget to take a group picture and post with the hashtag #MotherinLawDay!6

I also featured a post in this blog about the long weekend holidays in the Philippines: March – December 2018 Long Weekends … “Byahe Na”! (Travel Now!)

Calling the younger generations in the Philippines: please include the elders in your plans for such holidays too! I am not that religious but let us recall James 4:14 – “You know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.”

As I always tell the younger generation, “Tatanda rin kayo!” (You will also get old!) It’s your turn to show the elders of this generation your love and concern; time will come when it will be your turn to be the next older-generation.  Do your best now, ok?

In the blink of an eye, everything can change, so love with all your heart. You may not have that chance again. Show your elders how much you love them, preferably everyday would be nice.

Did you find this post informative? Please scroll below and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. I would like to hear from you too. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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1 http://www.daysof theyear.com

2“Mother’s Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/Mother’s_Day.

3www.fitnessday.com –ok na

4”Parents’ Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/Parents’_Day.

5“Father’s Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/Father’s_Day.

6www.daysoftheyear.com

7“National Grandparents Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/National_Grandparents_Day.

8“Respect for the Aged Day,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia/Respect_for_the-Aged-Day.

9”International Day of Older Persons,” accessed March 25, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Day_of_Older_Persons.

10 www.ptvnews.ph

NOKIA: THE LEGEND GOES ON!

A cell phone nowadays is indispensible, even for us, Seniors! Admit it, for some of us, it is the first device opened when we wake up and the last one closed before bedtime.

As a blogger, my cell phone is very important. I need it to go online, compute conversion rates, take clear pictures and videos, communicate using Facetime/Viber, check the weather, use Waze and other apps, be notified of important reminders, dates, schedules, list my to do/buy things, etc.

Now, Seniors, for sure when I say NOKIA, you will smile and recall your cell phones in the 1990s with that oh-so-familiar ringtone!

Well, what if I told you that NOKIA is back in the Philippines, with a new generation of Android1 smartphones?

HMD Global Oy is the home of Nokia phones, the exclusive licensee of the Nokia brand of phones and tablets, with headquarters in Espoo, Finland. Visit www.hmdglobal.com

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Yes, Seniors, Nokia was media-launched last Friday, April 13, 2018, at the Axon Event Center, Green Sun Hotel, Makati City.

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I attended this special event and was happy to know that there are four models to choose from: the flagship Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 1 (both available on April 2018), Nokia 6 and Original NOKIA 8110 4G (available on May 2018).

91CTu1524233576Each new generation Nokia smartphone has regular software updates to keep one’s phone up-to-date, safe and secure, without UI (user interface) changes or hidden processes eating up battery life or slowing the device down. These phones also have fewer pre-installed and much lighter apps on Android Oreo2 so one can get twice (or more) available storage and battery-maximization for up to two days.

Here are the four new generation Nokia Android smartphones and their features which I like for my travels, food trips and personal use:

NOKIA 7 PLUS (black/copper and white/copper, single or dual SIM):

  1. Its Dual-Sight technology allows the user to take a BOTHIE, the ability for the front and back cameras to simultaneously take pictures. It has a 16 MP front-facing and 12 MP rear camera, with ZEISS3 optics and high-quality lowlight capability. It adapts to low light conditions by increasing light sensitivity which I like because it guarantees picture-perfect moments for my travels and food trips.
  2. It offers a New Pro Camera mode which gives manual control over camera settings and shows the impact of adjustments in real time.
  3. It has a high fidelity sound with Nokia spatial audio capture and playback technology – a great feature for my videos!
  4. It has the latest Android features like:
  5. Picture-in-Picture (PiP, where one program takes full screen with one or more programs displayed in inset windows) for multitasking;
  6. Android Instant apps, so one can discover and run apps with minimal friction; and,
  7. 60 new emojis, just right for Viber messages and PMs.
  8. It allows unlimited photo and video uploads to Google Photos. Now this is definitely appealing to me since I take a lot of videos and pictures, both for my blog and personal use.
  9. It has a large 3800 mAh non-removable battery and has the latest generation and powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon4 660 Mobile Platform and 4 GB RAM. This simply means that this phone has optimized power consumption and a 2-day battery life, definitely a delightful feature for my trips.
  10. It features a vivid 6-inch 18:9 full-HD+ display, a wonderful way to fully enjoy my browsing, games and entertainment moments.
  11. It has a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner.
  12. It is reasonably-priced at PHP21,990. Pre-selling opened April 13, 2018 through Abenson.com, argomall, Lazada and MemoXpress. It is also available at 0% interest over 9-months installment terms through Home Credit, when applied online through argomall.com.

NOKIA 1 (dark blue or warm red, single or dual SIM):

  1. It is a 4G smartphone with the latest Android Oreo2 (Go edition), a version of Android optimized for devices with 1GB RAM or less, which enables the phone to run faster while consuming less data;
  2. It allows access to a new range of apps from Google like full access to the Google Play Store, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Go, Whatsapp, Google Go web search app, Google Maps Go, and Google Assistant for Android (Go edition) to quickly send messages, make calls, set alarms, etc., by simply using one’s voice;
  3. It has a familiar but refreshing design and features exchangeable Nokia Xpress-on covers (sold separately) with vibrant colors to suit one’s mood and color preference for the day.
  4. It is so reasonably priced at PHP4,290, definitely for every Juan!

The NOKIA 6 will be available in the country come May 2018, in silver or matte black/copper, blue/gold, white/iron, single or dual SIM, 32 or 64 GB.

Do you remember the movie “The Matrix” with Keanu Reeves as Neo in 1999? He used a Nokia banana phone. Well, what if I told you that this phone is back? Yes, dearest seniors, come May 2018, the Original NOKIA 8110 4G, in black or banana yellow, dual SIM, will be available in the country. It has a 2.4-inch curved screen with a curved protective cover to slide open to pick up calls and slide back to end them.

More details about any of these phones can be obtained from www.nokia.com for very techie and interested seniors/viewers.

Which Nokia phone did you have? I had several and gave them away but my husband kept one particular phone, the Nokia 8850. Look at it beside the new generation Nokia 7 Plus …

aoKWC1524235849

How about you? What Nokia phone did you have in the 1990s. dear seniors?

I am now considering the purchase a Nokia 7 Plus to bring along with me in my future travels and food trips. And how about a banana yellow Nokia 8110 4G as a second phone?

It is so convenient to order online from Lazada, the Official Store for Nokia mobile, or avail of the 0% interest-9-month installment term through Home Credit, through argomall.com.

Did you find this post informative? Please scroll below, click the “Like” tab, and share this in “Twitter” and “Facebook”.

I would like to hear from you too. Simply scroll to the upper right part of this post and click “Leave a comment”.

Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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1Android, Android One, Goggle and Google Photos are trademarks of Google LLC. Android is a mobile operating system developed by Google for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Visit www.android.com

2Android Oreo is a version of Android1 operating system developed by Google. Visit www.android.com

3ZEISS and the Zeiss logo are registered trademarks of Carl Zeiss AG, used under license of Carl Zeiss Vision GmbH. It provides optics for HMD Global. Visit www.zeiss.de

4Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. Snapdragon is a suite of system on a chip (SoC) semiconductor products for mobile devices designed and marketed by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. Visit www.qualcomm.com/snapdragon/devices/all

March – December 2018 Long Weekends … “Byahe Na”! (Travel Now!)

Wandering Filipino Senior Citizens (SCs), this year, 2018, is in our favor!

I was not able to post early this year, but it is better late than never …

Just look at my table below and see all the long weekends starting this March! So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trips beginning this Holy Week till the end of this year! Let’s go!

2018 Holiday

Day 1

Day 2 Day 3

Day 4

Holy Week

  March 29   Maundy Thursday

National Regular Holiday

March 30   Good Friday

National Regular Holiday

March 31   Black Saturday

Special Non-Working Day

April 1 (Sunday)

 

Araw ng Kagitingan             or             Day of Valor

 

   April 7      (Saturday)

April 8 (Sunday)

April 9 (Monday) National Regular Holiday

           –

Eidul Fitr (end of Ramadan)

       June 15           (Friday)      National Regular Holiday

 

June 16 (Saturday)

 

June 17 (Sunday)

 

National Heroes’ Day

August 25 (Saturday)

August 26 (Sunday)

August 27 (Monday)

National Regular Holiday

     All Saints’            Day                  and             All Soul’s Day

       November 1         All Saints’ Day (Thursday)

Special Non-Working Day

November 2 All Souls’ Day (Friday)

Special Non-Working Day

 November 3  (Saturday)

November 4 (Sunday)

Bonifacio Day (celebrating the birth of Andres Bonifacio,  “The Father of the Philippine Revolution”)

November 30 (Friday)

National Regular Holiday

December 1 (Saturday)

December 2 (Sunday)

            –

Christmas Day

December 22 (Saturday) December 23 (Sunday) December 24 Christmas Eve (Monday)

Special Non-Working Day

December 25 Christmas Day (Tuesday)

National Regular Holiday

Rizal Day   (to honor the heroic death anniversary of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines)

&

New Year 2019

December 29 (Saturday) December 30 Rizal Day (Sunday)

National Regular Holiday

December 31 Last day of the year     (Monday)

Special Non-Working Day

    January 1,          2019         New Year (Tuesday)

National Regular Holiday

Other (March-December) 2018 Philippine holidays are:

May 1 (Tuesday) – Labor Day – National Regular Holiday

June 12 (Tuesday) – Independence Day – National Regular Holiday

August 21 (Tuesday) – Ninoy Aquino Day (a Special Non-Working Day to commemorate the assasination of Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., which eventually led to the ouster of Presient Ferdinand Marcos) and Eid al-Adha (a National Regular Holiday to commemorate the end of the Hajj, the required Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca)

December 8 (Saturday) – Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – a Non-Working Day which will be celebrated for the first time as a holiday this year, 2018

We are connected by our love for travel, Wandering Senior Citizens! See you around …

If you haven’t been to El, Nido, Palawan, I suggest go see my previous posts:

EL NIDO: HEAVEN ON EARTH – Part 1

EL NIDO: Blue Lagoons – Part 2

EL NIDO: Islands and Caves – Part 3

Did I miss any March-December 2018 holiday in the Philippines? Did you find this post informative? Do you have suggestions where to go during these holidays? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right part of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your gadget.

SOURCE: Dates taken from www.rappler.com (with permission)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say, Say, Say: THE AIR PASSENGER BILL OF RIGHTS OF THE PHILIPPINES

Hello there, Wandering Filipino Senior Citizens (SCs)! I am sure you have been an air passenger but do you really know your rights as such? Read on!

The Department of Transportation and Communication1, with the Department of Trade and Industry2 (DTI), jointly made a Bill of Rights for Air Passengers and Carrier Obligations, implemented since 2012. See www.tourism.gov.ph

It is important to remember that your airline ticket is your contract of carriage with an air carrier so the latter is “obliged to transport you by air safely, efficiently and conveniently along a stipulated route at a given date and time, subject to certain conditions and/or restrictions.”

On the other hand, you, as a passenger, decide to buy that airline ticket and it binds you to “all the conditions and/or restrictions attached to that ticket on an all-or-nothing basis, without any say, whatsoever, with regard to the reasonableness of the individual conditions and restrictions attached to that ticket.”

So, read all texts especially the small, fine prints in your airline ticket and do not be afraid to ask the ticketing office or your travel agent. Do not forget to wear your glasses when reading (admit it, you sometimes forget where you placed it and are always tempted to simply press “I agree” in online options or sign your name just to get over that phase of your booking) … and use a magnifying glass or enlarge text fonts in your screen for online bookings, if need be!

There are 12 rights of air passengers, based on the Philippine Air Passenger Bill of Rights:

A. The Right to be Provided with Accurate Information Before Purchase

  1. The right to full, fair, and clear disclosure of the service offered and all the terms and conditions of the contract of carriage – The disclosure includes: documents to be presented at check-in, provisions on check-in deadlines, refund and rebooking policies, and procedures and responsibility for delayed and/or cancelled flights. The terms and conditions may include claim-filing deadlines as well as liability limitations and other crucial conditions. These must be printed and/or published as well as verbally explained to the air passenger in a language easily understood, especially the ff. terms: baggage allowance, check-in policies, rebooking, and refunding.
  2. The right to clear and non-misleading advertisements of, and important reminders regarding, fares in any medium – The following should be disclosed in not less than 1/3 the size of the advertisement: baggage allowance policies; conditions and restrictions attached to the (regular or promotional) fare type; contact details of the air carrier; government taxes and fuel surcharges; refund and rebooking policies; other information necessary to apprise the passenger of the conditions and the full/total price of the ticket purchased; and, other mandatory fees and charges. Promotional fares must also disclose the aforementioned along with the: CAB3 Approval No. of Fares; duration of the promo; and, the number of seats offered on a per sector basis. A copy of the above must be attached to, or printed on, the airline ticket in English and Filipino.
  3. The right against misleading and fraudulent sales promotion practices – All sales promotion campaigns and activities of air carriers shall be carried out with honesty, transparency and fairness, and in accordance with the requirements of the Consumer Act of the Philippines and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). The air carrier shall provide to DTI2 a copy of its promotional materials for post audit, not later than the publication, release, or launch date, whichever is earlier.

B. The Right to Receive the Full Value of the Service Purchased

4. The right to transportation and baggage conveyance – Every passenger is entitled to transportation, baggage conveyance and ancillary services, in accordance with the terms and conditions of contract of carriage with the air carrier. If the air carrier is negligent, the air passenger shall be compensated or be entitled to alternative arrangements which are acceptable to the passenger as provided by this Bill of Rights.

5. The right to be processed for check-in – An air passenger holding a confirmed ticket, whether promotional or regular, with complete documentary requirements and have complied with the check-in procedures, shall be processed accordingly at the check-in counter within the check-in deadline. The airline shall clearly designate the boundaries of its assigned check-in area/s or counter/s.

A passenger within the air carrier’s cordoned or other designated check-in area, at least one hour before the published ETD4 shall not be considered late or a no-show, and shall not be denied check-in.

A late passenger, who came after the aforementioned period, shall be denied check-in and directed to a standby or rebooking counter for proper processing. Disputes shall be resolved by the air carrier on-site.

  1. The right to sufficient processing time – Passengers shall be given enough time before the published ETD4 within which to go through the check-in and final security processes.

Air carriers operating in international airports and other airports designated by the DOTC1 shall open their check-in counters at least two hours before the ETD. A separate dedicated counter for a flight nearing check-in deadline shall be open to facilitate check-in of passengers at least one hour before the published ETD.

In other airports, they shall open check-in counters at least one hour before the ETD5.

For senior citizens, PWDs5 (who should declare his/her need for special assistance or handling upon booking a flight), and their companions, an air carrier shall: (1) designate at least one check-in counter; and, (2) coordinate with the appropriate authorities for the use of proper airport equipment, entryways and/or aerobridges, when available, to facilitate transactions, movement, boarding and/or disembarkation of such people at the airport, duly informed of additional costs, if applicable.

  1. The right to board the aircraft for the purpose of flight – A passenger checked-in for a particular flight has the right to board the aircraft for the purpose of flight, except when there is legal or other valid cause (e.g., immigration issues, health concerns, safety and security, non-appearance at the boarding gate at the appointed boarding time, CAB3-endorsed government requisition of space6).

Re overbooking, the air carrier shall: (1) determine the number of passengers in excess of the actual seat capacity of the aircraft; (2) announce that the flight is overbooked and are looking for volunteers willing to give up their seats in exchange for air carrier compensation; (3) provide interested passengers or volunteers a list of amenities and offers (e.g., cash incentive; priority booking in the next flight with available space; endorsement to another air carrier upon payment of any fare difference); and, (4) increase the compensation package be certain degrees or by adding more amenities/services, until the required number of volunteers is met.

Bottomline: (1) the settlement of such compensation for passengers shall not be an excuse for the undue delay of the flight’s ETD; (2) the compensation, if accepted by the passenger, shall constitute liquidated damages for all damages incurred by the passenger as a result of the air carrier’s failure to provide the passenger with a confirmed reserved seat.

C. The Right to Compensation and Amenities

8. The right to compensation and amenities in case of cancellation of flight – In case of flight cancellations:

  • attributable to the air carrier, a passenger: (1) shall have the right to be notified beforehand via public announcement, written/published notice and flight status update service (text); (2) when already in the airport at the time of the announcement of the flight cancellation shall be provided sufficient refreshments or meals (e.g., snacks – at least a sandwich and a bottle of water; breakfast, lunch or dinner, or a voucher for the same, as the case may be); hotel accommodation (conveniently accessible from the airport); transportation from the airport to the hotel and v.v.; free phone calls, text or emails; and, first aid, if necessary; and (3) three options: (a) reimbursement of the value of the fare, including taxes and surcharges, of the sector cancelled, or both/all sectors, in case the passenger decides not to fly the ticket or all the routes/sectors; (b) be endorsed to another air carrier without paying any fare difference, at the option of the passenger, and provided that space and other circumstances permit such re-accommodation; or (c) rebook the ticket, without additional charge, to the next flight with available space, or within 30 days, to a future trip within the period of validity of the ticket. For rebooking made in excess of the aforementioned 30 days for a trip likewise within the validity of the ticket, fees, and/or fare difference shall apply.

In case the air carrier cancels a flight at least 24 hours before the ETD4, it shall not be liable for the foregoing amenities, except, it shall be obliged to notify the passenger, and, in accordance with the preceding provisions, to rebook or reimburse the passenger, at the option of the latter.

  • by force majeure, safety and/or security reasons, as certified by the CAB3 of the Philippines, a passenger shall have the right to be reimbursed for the full value of the fare.

The above provisions shall be the minimum entitlement of a passenger in case of cancellation, and shall not prohibit the air carrier from granting more favorable conditions or recourses, as it may deem appropriate.

Remember, a confirmed reservation is necessary to make a passenger eligible for compensation through a written confirmation issued by the air carrier or its authorized agent, even if the air carrier cannot find the reservation in its electronic records. The passenger should not have cancelled the reservation or missed a reconfirmation deadline.

  1. The right to compensation and amenities in case of flight delay and exceptions thereto – In case of flight delay7 and exceptions thereto –
  • For Terminal Delay of at least 3 hours after the ETD4, whether or not such is attributable to the carrier, a passenger shall have the right to: (1) be provided with refreshments or meals (sufficient snacks, breakfast, lunch or dinner), free phone calls, text or emails and first aid (if necessary); (2) rebook or refund his/her ticket in accordance with 8a.
  • For Terminal Delay which extends to at least 6 hours after the ETD4 for causes attributable to the air carrier, it shall be deemed cancelled for the purpose of making available to the passenger the rights and amenities required to be provided in case of actual cancellation, as provided in 8a, and in addition, an affected passenger shall be given the following: (1) additional compensation equivalent to at least the value of the sector delayed or deemed cancelled to be paid in the form of cash or voucher, at the discretion of the air carrier; and, (2) the right to board the flight if it takes place more than 6 hours after the ETD and the affected passenger has not opted to rebook and/or refund; the air carrier is obliged to exert all efforts to contact the passenger for the flight.
  • For Tarmac Delay of at least 2 hours after the ETD4, reckoned from the closing of the aircraft doors, or when the aircraft is at the gate with the doors still open but passengers are not allowed to deplane, a passenger shall likewise have the right to be provided with sufficient food and beverage.
  • The provisions shall be the minimum entitlement of a passenger in case of delay and shall not prohibit the air carrier from granting more favorable conditions or recourses, as it may deem appropriate.
  1. The right to compensation for delayed, lost and damaged baggage – In case of delayed, lost and damaged baggage – A passenger shall have the right to have his/her baggage carried on the same flight that s/he takes, subject to considerations of safety, security, or any other legal and valid cause:
  • in case a checked-in baggage has been off-loaded7 for operational, safety, or security reasons, the air carrier shall inform the passenger at the soonest practicable time, and in such manner that the passenger will readily know of the off-loading (i.e., that his/her baggage has been off-loaded and the reason for such). If the passenger’s baggage has been off-loaded, the air carrier should make the appropriate report and give the passenger a copy thereof, even if it had already announced that the baggage would be on the next flight.

The air carrier shall carry the off-loaded7 baggage in the next flight with available space, and deliver the same to the passenger either personally or at his/her residence. For every 24-hours of delay (commencing one hour from the arrival of the flight of the passenger carrying such baggage) in such delivery, the air carrier shall tender an amount of 2,000 pesos to the passenger, as compensation for the inconvenience the latter experienced. A fraction of a day shall be considered as one day for purposes of calculating the compensation.

  • in case such baggage, whether carried on the same or a later flight, be lost or suffer any damage attributable to the air carrier, the passenger shall be compensated in the following manner: (1) for international flights, the relevant convention8 shall apply; and (2) for domestic flights, upon proof, a maximum amount equivalent to half of the amount in the relevant convention (for international flights) in its peso equivalent.

For compensation purposes, a passenger’s baggage is presumed to have been permanently and totally lost, if within a period of 7 days, counted from the time the passenger or consignee should have received the same, the baggage is not delivered to said passenger or consignee.

  1. The right to compensation in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger – In case of death or bodily injury of a passenger –
  • For international flights, the relevant convention8 and inter-carrier agreement shall apply. However, for an international carriage performed under the 1966 Montreal Inter-Carrier Agreement, which includes a point in the USA as a point of origin, a point of destination or agreed stopping place, the limit of liability for each passenger for death, wounding or other bodily injury, shall be US$75,000, inclusive of legal fees and costs, provided, in the case of a claim brought in a state where a provision is made for a separate award for legal fees and costs, the limit shall be US$58,000, exclusive of legal fees and costs.
  • For domestic flights, the compensation shall be based on the stipulated amount in the relevant convention which governs international flights, the same to be given in peso denominations.

12. The right to immediate payment of compensation – An air carrier liable for any and all compensations shall make the same available to the affected passenger at the air carrier’s counters at the airport on the date when the occasion entitling the passenger to compensation occurred, or at the main office or any branch of the air carrier at the discretion of the passenger. The air carrier shall tender a check for the amount specified, or cash, or the document necessary to claim the compensation or benefits mentioned above, provided that such document shall be convertible to cash within 15 days from the date when the occasion entitling the passenger to such compensation occurred.

D.  Administrative Matters

  1. Air Carrier and CAB3 Complaint and Assistance Desks – Air carriers shall provide Customer Service Representatives who can address common problems (e.g., arranging meals and hotel rooms for stranded passengers, settling denied boarding compensation, arranging luggage resolutions, and settling other routine claims or complaints, on the spot).

The CAB3 may provide Complaints and Assistance Desks in all airports, manned by CAB or CAB-deputized personnel, who shall assist passengers whose rights to the service have not been fully satisfied by the air carrier. The said personnel shall assist in the filing and prosecution of the complaints of passengers whose rights have been violated and who wish to go after the concerned air carriers.

  1. Refund of Other Fees – Every air carrier must refund checked baggage fees and other optional service fees (e.g., insurance, donation to WWF9, seat selector fee), if the passenger did not use his/her ticket, provided that the said ticket is refundable and that the passenger is not at fault. The refund of checked baggage fees will also apply, if the baggage was not delivered to the passenger within 24 hours from the arrival of the flight, on top of the compensation fee as mentioned in air passenger right number 10.
  2. Written Reports – Air carriers shall submit a monthly report to the CAB3 on the following:
  • The number of regular and promotional fare passengers who have been denied boarding, or whose flights were delayed or cancelled;
  • The number of regular and promotional fare passengers whose baggage was lost, damaged, or off-loaded7; and,
  • The number of regular and promotional fare passengers who died or sustained an injury during the course of the flight or performance of the contract of carriage, as well as the reasons and other circumstances of such occurrences.

Air carriers shall maintain a database containing the names, addresses, and/or other particulars of such passengers, their flights, concerns or complaints, as well as records of the air carrier’s personnel regarding the same, if any, and other pertinent information, available to the CAB upon request.

 

That’s it! So, Senior Citizens, by now you know your rights when it comes to air travel …

Did you find this post informative? Do you have your own inputs re the bill of rights of air passengers? I would love to hear from you. Simply scroll upward towards the right and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you.

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1The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) was primary the policy, planning, programming, coordinating, implementing and administrative government agency in the Philippines responsible for the promotion, development, and regulation of a dependable and coordinated network of transportation and communications systems, as well as the fast, safe, efficient and reliable transportation and communications services. It was dissolved in 2016 with the creation of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). Visit its website: www.dotr.gov.ph

2The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is the executive department of the Philippine government which is responsible for an innovative and competitive business environment, job generation, and consumer empowerment. It accelerates and sustains economic growth through comprehensive industrial growth strategies, progressive and socially responsible trade liberalization and deregulation programs, and policymaking designed for the expansion and diversification of (domestic and foreign) Philippine trade. Visit its website: www.dti.gov.ph

3The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) is the agency of the Philippine government mandated to regulate the economic aspect of air transportation, and shall have the general supervision, control and jurisdiction over air carriers, general sales agents, cargo sales agents, and air freight forwarders, as well as their property, property rights, equipment, facilities, and franchise. It is under the Department of Transportation and Communications1. See its website: www.cab.gov.ph

4ETD stands for Estimated Time of Departure, the date and time which an aircraft is expected to depart from an airport.

5PWD is the abbreviation for Persons With Disability and includes people who have long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

6Government requisition of space refers to a formal request by the government or its agencies to an air carrier company for the use of an aircraft, or any part thereof, for regulatory, safety, security, and/or emergency purposes.

7Off-loading is the solution of an air carrier which overbooks and more passengers appear than the number of airline seats for a particular flight. Airline passengers are asked to volunteer not to join the flight and join the next flight in exchange for certain monetary compensation and the appropriate arrangement for their accommodation in between flights. This term can also apply to a baggage of a passenger which was not with him/her in his/her flight, for operational, safety or security reasons. See Air Passenger Right # 10.

8Convention refers to the applicable international agreement, convention, or treaty on carriage of persons or goods by air, signed and/or ratified by the Philippines.

9WWF stands for the World Wide Fund for Nature, formerly called World Wildlife Fund (but still used in North America), and considered the world’s largest conservation organization. It is an international non-governmental organization which is focused on wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment, and founded in 1961. Visit its website: www.worldwildlife.org