SAY, SAY, SAY: ARMY NAVY BURGER AND BURRITO, CONCEPCION, TARLAC

I recall, in 2009, hearing about the first Army Navy in the Philippines located along Tagaytay Ridge in Tagaytay City, almost 50 km south of Manila. In no time at all, this casual burger-burrito restaurant became popular, and branched out to other major cities in the Philippines.

The branding was unique because each restaurant’s architectural design takes inspiration from military Quonset Huts commonly described as World War I lightweight prefabricated structures of corrugated galvanized iron with a semicircular cross-section.

A camp-style dining experience was promised, along with freshly prepared, premium quality burgers and burritos. Popular bestsellers nowadays include the Bully Boy Burger, a triple-patty burger topped with onions, lettuce and tomato served in a Kaiser Bun dotted with black & white sesame seeds, and the Steak Burrito made with 100% high-quality beef.

I have dined in its various locations and have been satisfied with the quality of the food, service, and ambiance.

On August 26, 2019, however, after coming from Baguio City, my family decided to eat at its branch in City Mall SCTEX in Barangay Santiago, municipality of Concepcion, in the province of Tarlac.

It took us about 4 hours to reach Tarlac because of the volume of tourists leaving Baguio after a long holiday weekend, so we were all hungry.

As expected, the mall was full of people and there were long lines of customers, regardless of restaurant. Army Navy seemed to be inviting even if we had to wait for 25 minutes to be served. We found a table and waited for our orders.

Alas, we immediately noticed that there were flies all around – the tables, glass walls, floor, etc. I noticed that a single candle was provided on our table, but it was no deterrent for these insects, what with two full and uncovered waste disposal bins near our table. Even the kids who were with us covered their mouths for fear of a fly entering their mouth, no kidding!

We wanted to leave but we were famished by then, and we were sure that we could consume our orders in no time at all. My husband wanted to order some french fries from a famous potato stall just outside Army Navy while waiting for our orders, but decided not to do so due to the flies all over that stall too!

As usual, the mother hen in me, after hearing the number of the previous customer being called, stood up and waited patiently for our number to be called next at the claim-counter. That was where I noticed that food orders not immediately claimed   were exposed to the risk of flies to landing on them.

Our orders were placed on trays, one by one, and I requested them to be covered with their paper lining. I told family members to immediately eat and protect their orders from the flies.

My Coke Zero in can was given out earlier, along with the beverage orders of the rest of my family. I told my son to cover it while it was placed on top of our table.

The Tortilla Soup I ordered, followed, and I ate it at the claim-counter because I was really so hungry. The Bacon Cheese Fries came next. I had it covered after I took a couple of fries (sorry, I was so hungry). I then asked my son to bring it to the table and share it with others.

I ordered two Chipotle Crispy Chicken Sandwiches and only one was released. I gave that to a nephew. My sandwich was taking so long, and would you believe that it came last? When I went back to our table, most of my companions have finished eating and gave me feedback that they did not enjoy the meal because of the hovering flies. So, I decided to take my orders out of the restaurant, and just eat and drink them in the van.

My companions who went to the rest rooms gave me feedback that flies were all over the mall and when they asked for the reason, they were told that the source were nearby poultry farms. Perhaps, it was time for the farms to clean their premises after selling their chicken stocks, your guess is as good as mine.

My only regret was that I was not able to take any picture to document this event. I was so hungry, busy supervising the release of our orders from the claim-counter, and just wanted to get out of this place.

This miserable dining experience was not acceptable, but we had to eat lunch at 2 pm after being stuck in traffic leaving Baguio for 4 hours and this was the first decent place to stop and eat. Almost all restaurants in that mall were full at that time.

I personally do not know the cause of the fly infestation and what the stakeholders are doing to solve this situation, but bottom-line, as a customer of Army Navy on August 26, 2019, I found this situation unsanitary, and hazardous, and the CityMall and restaurant management insensitive to the customers, to say the least.

I featured the Philippine food safety standards and fly infestation in restaurants in two separate posts: A GLIMPSE OF PHILIPPINE FOOD SAFETY STANDARDS and  SAY, SAY, SAY: FLY INFESTATION IN RESTAURANTS. I am not aware what the restaurant, mall and local government units (LGUs) are doing regarding this fly infestation, but based on Philippine food safety standards and my brief dining experience in this restaurant, the following are my appeals and suggestions.

1. To the LGUs, specifically the leaders of Barangay Santiago and the town of Concepcion in Tarlac: Simply implement your mandate as per Republic Act No. 10611 – the Food Safety Act of 2013. That law stipulates that you have the primary responsibility for food safety in food businesses in your jurisdiction.

Have you investigated the cause of the fly infestation in this barangay? Implemented and enforced the food safety law? The customers of the various restaurants in this mall, and perhaps even the residents of the barangay, are definitely affected by this infestation.

What have your food safety inspectors done? Why renew the permits of erring businessmen? Are you not compelled to issue even just a suspension order to erring entities until they would comply with sanitary requirements?

If the inspector sees the flies on an inspection visit, every restaurant in the mall could be given a bad rating, or even be closed until the inspector is satisfied that the source is eliminated, and that steps have been taken to prevent the problem coming back.

For sure, customers will see the flies and eventually steer clear of the mall, costing business owners’ money, and potentially costing staff their jobs.

2. To Army Navy and the other food establishments in City Mall: You are supposed to provide a safe and comfortable environment so your customers can enjoy your delicious food and refreshing drinks. Do you think the presence of this fly infestation provides such an environment? Is it not upsetting and detrimental to the health of your customers and staff? Eventually, your reputation will suffer, and this will ultimately affect your revenue!

Have any of your customers or staff become sick due to this infestation? If not, do you still have to wait for such to happen?

Have you discussed this problem with the CityMall management and the LGUs, as well as undergone risk analysis and implemented appropriate measures?

After seeing flies in the front-of-the-house areas of this restaurant, I cannot help but think about the condition of the fly infestation at the back-of-the-house (kitchens) of all the restaurants in this mall. Do you have the Hazard Analyses at Critical Control Points (HACCP) system in your establishments?

Army Navy management, in your official website, you claim that your restaurant denotes a military culture of discipline, command, service, freedom and honor. So tell me, what you have done to solve this health hazard?

Please keep dining room-trash containers covered, preferably use self-closing lids. Assign a restaurant staff to regularly empty receptacles at the front- and back-of-the-house, and keep the areas around them free of debris and rotting food.

Constantly educate your staff on the importance of maintaining a high level of hygiene in the establishment so the risks of a fly infestation will be minimized. A pest control program should be consistently implemented daily.1

3. To the CityMall authorities: Your mall is infested with flies! Did you investigate? And what have you done so that your customers will not be exposed to this hazard? I am sorry to say this, but CityMall management, you have lost my family as future customers, unless we will be assured that this will not happen again.

Have you coordinated with the LGUs about this problem? Can you, along with the other residents of this barangay who are affected by the flies, petition the LGUs to immediately act on this problem?

Have you sought advice from a professional mall-food service fly control expert? You can also form a Pest Control Team to develop an Integrated Pest Management plan to control the fly infestation problem in your mall.1 and 2

 Similarly, you can develop an exclusion plan that is the safest and most practical method of preventing flies from entering your restaurant. Check the exterior of your mall for cracks or crevices, and fill them with caulk. Install weather stripping on windows and doors. If you can, add a set of sliding doors by the outside entrances as an extra barrier to any incoming pests. You can use high-speed fans near the exits and entrances to create air curtains that flies will have difficulty crossing.2

Light is a form of mechanical control for fly problems. Usually, insect light traps are most effective when placed near entrances such as windows and doors. It is important, however, to place lights in such a way that they cannot be seen from the outside. The goal is not to attract flies into your building, but to ensure that those already inside your building will be immediately drawn to the light source. Your pest management professional can suggest strategic locations for insect light traps, and can aid in installation. Be sure to include areas in your building that are not visible to the general public and customers.2

 4. To nearby residents: I am so sure that you are also affected by this fly infestation. Have you complained about this to your barangay and mayor’s offices? Are you keen on getting rid of this health hazard? Have you petitioned authorities to remedy the situation, now and in the future? Has any member of your family become sick due to this infestation?

5. To the establishment/s which is/are the cause of this fly infestation: Why not be socially responsible businessmen, citizens and human beings, and practice the right way to get rid of the flies from your properties, rather than just allowing these insects to fly and affect the food safety of nearby residences as well as food establishments and their customers?

6. To all government agencies tasked to properly implement Republic Act No. 10611: Why not investigate this matter so that this will no longer happen in CityMall-Tarlac, as well as in other places in our beloved country? You have been tasked to undergo thorough and rigid inspection as well as protect consumer health nationwide. We are waiting.

I sincerely look forward to the day when CityMall Concepcion, Tarlac, will be a “No Fly Zone” and hungry people from Baguio will get to enjoy dining in any restaurant in this mall!

The restaurant information was obtained from https://www.armynavy.com.ph/.

I paid for my Army Navy-Concepcion, Tarlac visit, and all comments are personal, based on my August 26, 2019 experience.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you re any pest infestation in any food service establishment. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”. Do share this post with your Facebook friends, follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device, and do not forget to like this post. Thank you.

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1https://insectcop.net/keeping-your-restaurant-fly-free/

2https://www.jppestservices.com/blog/effectively-manage-fly-problems-your-restaurant

SAY, SAY, SAY: FLY INFESTATION IN RESTAURANTS

Filipinos love to eat, whether it be street food, fast food, fine dining, or eat-all-you-can buffets. This definitely challenges food service management to be competitive as well as to strictly observe food safety standards to ensure public health.

Tita S summarized the highlights of food safety standards in the Philippines as per the 1987 Philippine constitution and the Food Safety Act of 2013. She also wrote about fly infestation in a particular restaurant. See these related posts: A GLIMPSE OF PHILIPPINE FOOD SAFETY STANDARDS and SAY, SAY, SAY: ARMY NAVY BURGER AND BURRITO, CONCEPCION, TARLAC.

Cockroaches and mice are alarming, but flies are everywhere. I have observed that Filipinos are not so particular about flies hovering around them while they are eating, even when satisfying their hunger for street food. Do you agree?

And tell me, Filipinos, are we not alarmed with our food safety when there are flies in the restaurants we go to? I guess flies cannot be completely eradicated, but for sure, they can be controlled.

Allow Tita S to give you some facts which she researched regarding this matter:

1. Flies are twice as filthy as cockroaches and carry more disease-causing pathogens.According to a study done in 2017, flies usually spend their time in garbage, feeding on decaying matter such as rotten food, and human and animal feces, which contain parasites, viruses and bacteria. Picking these pathogens up on their legs, they will transfer these to whatever surface they land on, be it human food or food preparation surfaces of restaurants and homes.2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Flies spread diseases by regurgitating a liquid that contains their saliva and digestive enzymes into your food. This fluid in their saliva and vomit breaks down the solid food into a liquid they can ingest.

Alas, it also contains pathogens that can cause humans to get sick. But that is not all. Flies can also transmit the diseases they carry by urinating and dropping their feces into your food as well as by leaving pathogens on your kitchen counter top or any surface.6

2. Flies excrete wherever they come to rest, and thereby, mechanically transmit diseases.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), flies can transmit over 65 different diseases, like cholera, conjunctivitis, gastroenteritis, salmonellosis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, among others. And all these diseases can have a direct impact on a restaurant’s customers and staff’s health.6

The longer a fly is on your food, the higher the chance of harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites being transferred to it. It definitely slobbers, vomits and poops all over your food, and can transmit diseases. It is not only annoying but hazardous as well! Better to throw away your food!6

3. Flies do not have any teeth, so they eat by spitting and throwing up on their food. As a fly eats, it usually poops, and if it’s a female, it might lay eggs, too.6

Flies reproduce extremely quickly and speed through the air quickly.1 and 6 Female flies can lay batches of fertilized eggs, with one batch consisting of 150 fertilized eggs, and can lay up to 1,000 eggs during her lifetime, which is about 28 days.3 and 8

4. Flies love dirt and are attracted to rotten food and sugary drinks.Flies are like mosquitoes; they can smell their meal from miles away, but the reality is they prefer to have their meals where their breeding grounds are. So, if you eliminate breeding grounds, you get rid of flies!9 Ensure high levels of hygiene in your kitchen and restaurant.6

5. There are many types of flies which can invade a food service establishment such as house flies, drain flies, fruit flies, vinegar flies, phorid flies, and blow flies. Treatment for each fly is different.7

6. Restaurants must have a well-managed pest control program for rodents, roaches and flies. An inspection must be made to determine where pests are harboring, hiding and traveling so that appropriate pesticides will be applied.7

7. There should be a positive air flow for an enclosed restaurant with a commercial AC unit and an exhaust fan in the kitchen. Management must make sure that the AC unit is putting enough recovery air back in the building to make up for the air it is exhausting. With enough air to cool right, comes less flies. Or, the flies will huddle in an area, to be easily eliminated.9

8. Another alternative to keep the flies away from your kitchen and restaurant is to invest in the so-called fly lights. They are fly traps that emit UV light and will help you keep the flies at bay. Commercial kitchen fly control units like electric fly killing units or sticky traps are also handy tools in keeping these pests away from your kitchen as well as eradicating any existing fly problem.The electric gadgets can be strategically located in a building as long as they are not located close to food (which might be contaminated with zapped insects).7

9. Check all trash dumpsters, trash bins, sinks and sink drains, floor drains, kitchen equipment, loose floor tiles, wall voids, electrical boxes, any hollow tubing on appliance legs, behind and under equipment, and any other crevice, crack or void where pests may have taken up residence. Glue boards should be placed near suspected infestations to monitor suspected problem areas and to localize where to apply treatments.

There should be tight weather seals around doors and windows. Caulk all openings leading to wall voids and never leave doors or unscreened windows open. Remember, treating for pests outside may also stop them from invading indoors.7

Screen vents, doors and windows to prevent fly infestations. Sometimes large fans, called “air curtains” are effective at keeping flies out of restaurants.4

10. Install fans in your kitchen and restaurant. Another trick you can use to keep the flies away is to invest in cooling fans that that will keep the air circulating and the flies from landing on your food. Mesh netting on your windows and doorways will also help with fly control for restaurants with open doorways and windows because the mesh will keep the insects out while you will be able to keep your customers cool, thanks to the open windows.6

11. Well, if you cannot get rid of flies by denying them breeding grounds, why not trap them? Seafood can be used as bait, below or near a fly trap tape.Conduct a thorough inspection to locate breeding areas of pests. Apply fly baits to the trash collection areas. Flies can easily enter when customers or employees enter a restaurant, or when trash is taken out. You can also incorporate screening vents on windows or doors. Scan for problem locations, such as standing water left unchecked, and any uncleaned areas.

12. Sanitation is crucial in preventing flies from infesting a restaurant kitchen. Sinks, floors, kitchen equipment, and trash bins/pails, drains and drain traps must be cleaned as often as possible, especially before leaving overnight.All counter spaces and chopping blocks should be wiped down regularly throughout the day.5

All food should remain refrigerated when not being used so it will not be left standing. Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible to prevent fly entry.

Depending on your restaurant, you might even be able to use an “air curtain” or large fans pointed at entry points to help keep flies from gaining access to your kitchen.5

Sink and floors drains, as potential breeding grounds for many types of flies, should be kept extremely clean through an enzyme-based cleaner.7

13. Train all new employees on established sanitation procedures and the proper protocol for resolving a possible fly problem. Constantly educate your staff on the importance of maintaining a high level of hygiene in the establishment so the risks of a fly infestation will be minimized. A pest control program should be consistently implemented daily.6 and 10

Employees must be trained and be diligent to scrub the kitchen tops, tables, and chopping boards clean. Additionally, the indoor and outdoor trash cans should always be covered, and customers’ food remains properly disposed of because those will be the first to attract flies. The restaurant tables and floors should also be wiped every time a customer leaves which will ensure extra cleanliness and less possibility that your customers can get sick by eating at your restaurant. The staff should constantly check on the food in the kitchen, and dispose of the food that is past its expiration date. All empty bottles that contain sugary drinks should also be kept away from the eating area as flies are attracted to sugary substances.6

To summarize, here are some suggestions for employees11:

a. keep counters, appliances and fixtures free of food, and clean up spills immediately. Inspect wheel castors, table supports, and other hard to clean areas regularly for food debris.

b. Damp mops and towels left to ferment can quickly become a breeding place for bacteria and pests in a food service area. Dry out wet tools and if possible, keep them covered in a bin. Never leave a wet mop propped against a wall. Instead, store with strands hanging down in a dry, well-circulated area.

c. Use a heavy-duty brush to scour pipes above the water trap. Regularly maintain drains with a bio-enzymatic cleaner – one that is bacteria and enzyme-based – to eliminate the grease and slime that small drain flies feed on and lay eggs in.

d. Eliminate areas where water may pool, paying particular attention to drains, corners, cracks and crevices. Use a squeegee or wet/dry vacuum to remove pooled water on floors.

e. Run garbage disposals for an extra 30 seconds after waste has passed through, running water down the drain at the same time.

f. Always keep trash containers covered, using self-closing lids whenever possible. Empty receptacles frequently and keep the areas around them free of debris and rotting food, especially vegetables and fruits. Rinse containers regularly with hot water to eliminate bits of food or juice, then clean and disinfect.

g. Do not allow windows or doors to be propped open. Repair torn screens and replace missing caulk, weather stripping and joint mortar around the building. Crevices and gaps could provide an easy entryway for pests.

h. Keep exterior garbage cans at least 25 feet from entrances. Use a mechanical spray device with a disinfectant solution to clean, disinfect and deodorize exterior trash receptacles Do not stack, store, or plant anything next to building openings.

i. Drain flies may be small, but they can become a huge problem for your food service establishment if not under control. Simply practice a few simple maintenance procedures each day to make your kitchen area uninviting to these pests while keeping your operation safely humming along.

j. The bucket-and-mop technique leaves behind plenty of soil for flies and other pests to enjoy. Systems that use always-fresh cleaning solution and incorporate a wet/dry vac to remove anything left on the floors are much more successful. Use a squeegee on tables, counters, bars and kitchen lines to make sure no food residue remains at the end of a busy day.12

14. A food stall owner in Singapore hangs a bunch of chilies near cooked and uncooked food where flies are likely to land to keep them away from the food preparation and storage areas.9

15. Apart from commercial repellents, you can also plant herbs that repel flies around the restaurant or place them on the windowsills.9

The picture of the fly in the featured image of this post came from the free photo library of WordPress.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you regarding any pest infestation in any food service establishment. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”.

Do share this post with your Facebook friends, follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device, and do not forget to like this post. Thank you.

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 1https://totalfood.com/filth-flies-small-pests-big-problems/

2https://nowthisnews.com/videos/food/you-might-want-to-throw-away-your-food-if-a-fly-lands-on-it

3https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1007813

4https://www.orkin.com/flies/restaurant-flies

5https://www.rjspest.com/how-to-get-rid-of-flies-in-a-restaurant/

6https://insectcop.net/keeping-your-restaurant-fly-free/

7https://www.domyown.com/restaurant-pest-control-a-418.html

8https://sciencetrends.com/what-is-the-lifespan-of-a-fly/

9https://www.thriftyfun.com/tf22337071.tip.html

10https://www.jppestservices.com/blog/effectively-manage-fly-problems-your-restaurant

11https://www.nycoproducts.com/resources/blog/get-rid-of-drain-flies-foodservice-restaurants/

12https://kaivac.com/a_636-How-to-Prevent-Flies-From-Plaguing-Your-Restaurant

Say, Say, Say! – The 2019 RENEWAL OF PHILIPPINE PASSPORT ISSUE

UPDATE: Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. signed Department Order No. 03-2019 (Documentary Requirements for the Renewal of Regular Passports) on January 15, 2019, removing the requirement of presenting a birth certificate when renewing a Filipino passport.1 The order states that “the Department recognizes the need to enhance the convenience of, and unburden the public and passport applicants from unnecessary requirements for the renewal of their passports. Therefore, the presentation of birth certificate in the application for the renewal of passport shall not be required.”2

“I know there are many obstacles to getting fast passports. I know all over the world, passports are swiftly given, renewals are automatic. No other requirements are imposed. But give us time to get things done,” Secretary Locsin said while signing said order in the presence of the media.3 He also stated that the “old passport is more than sufficient.”3, 4

The order covers only regular renewals of passports, and shall not cover the following cases where birth certificates are still required1, 2, 3, 5:

  1. First-time passport applications;
  2. Renewal applications for lost and mutilated passports;
  3. Renewal applications requiring changes in the passport entries;
  4. Renewal applications of old brown and green passports bearing no complete middle name; and,
  5. Applicants included in the Department’s watchlist.

Let me stop at this point, dear readers. For some of you who might not have heard the news starting the weekend of January 12-13, 2019, for whatever reason, you might be thinking: What happened in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)? Why, all of a sudden, was it announced, thereafter, that birth certificates were required for passport renewal, but on the 15th, about 3 days after the announcement, a DFA order was made no longer requiring birth certificates for passport renewal? What really happened? Well, Tita S immediately posted: Say, Say, Say! – 2019 ADDITIONAL RENEWAL REQUIREMENT FOR PHILIPPINE PASSPORTS ISSUED BEFORE 2010

So, for those who missed that post, here is a recap of what happened.

This issue started when an overseas Filipino worker complained about not being able to renew his passport because the name on his birth certificate does not match the one on his old passport, sometime end of the week, around January 12, 2019.5

To this, Secretary Locsin said, “Isn’t the expired passport sufficient ID? How many times do you have to prove you are what the State declared you are in the expired passports? Why even need to show birth certificate when he is holding a government-issued passport that’s expired and he wants it renewed.”5

But when asked why the DFA could not just get the data from when the OFW initially applied for a passport, Secretary Locsin announced that the DFA needed to rebuild their “files from scratch because [their] previous outsourced passport maker “made off with the data” when its contract was terminated.5, 6 He added: “Because [the] previous contractor got pissed [and] when terminated it made off with data. We did nothing about it or couldn’t because we were in the wrong. It won’t happen again.7 Passports pose national security issues and cannot be kept by private entities. Data belongs to the state.”6

Netizens then raised complaints.2 Secretary Locsin responded to a netizen’s query on data protection. He said he did not know whether information taken by the supposed passport contractor was safe. “How can we be sure? I don’t know. Why you guys who understand data acquisition and protection should keep up the attacks,” he said.8

Meanwhile, DFA Assistant Secretary Cato said that “applicants renewing brown or green passports or maroon machine-readable passports are required to submit birth certificates because we need to capture and store the document in our database as we no longer have the physical copy of the document submitted when they first applied”.9 Recall that before the country transitioned to the e-passport, the DFA required the submission of physical copies of birth certificates and marriage contracts, he said.6

According to Cato, the DFA stopped issuing the machine readable-ready and machine readable passports (MRP) around 2010 to 2011. He said electronic passports or “e-passports” are passports which contain a microchip. Furthermore, Cato said that there are still Filipinos who are in possession of expired MRP or older passports which have not been renewed yet.7

On January 12, Saturday, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) launched an investigation into the alleged data security breach.4 NPC announced: “Any form of non-availability of personal date, infringement of the rights of data subjects, and harms from processing that include inconveniencing the public, must be adequately explained to the satisfaction of the law.”8, 10 The NPC said that it would summon DFA officials and the alleged passport contractor.8

Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, demanded an explanation how a privately contracted firm can take an entire physical database of all Filipino passport holders and why the firm is not being sued. She said it “indicates a serious national security risk” and that the data should “be retrieved completely and with the highest sense of urgency and priority. Apart from that, the people responsible for such a gross display of incompetence should be held fully responsible.”9

On January 14, Monday, DFA Secretary Locsin said that there is “no leak so far” of the passport data that a former private contractor allegedly ran off.4

That same day, Malacañang rejected the move of the DFA to require birth certificates for passport holders seeking to renew their travel document. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the public should not be burdened by being required to submit original copies of their birth certificate, since obtaining such requires another application process before the Philippine Statistics Authority. He added that “the submission of the old or current passport which the applicant seeks to renew should suffice for the purpose. The ongoing practice is not only cumbersome to everyone affected but is a form of red tape which this administration frowns upon and will not tolerate.” He even said that the current arrangement for the printing of passports should be examined “to determine if there are violations of pertinent laws which may be detrimental to the public.”10

In this regard, Senator Nancy Binay called for a review by the Office of the Solicitor General of all government contracts with third party providers, in response to the issue of passport data disclosed by Secretary Locsin over the weekend. She said that there is a need to step up standards when it comes to data protection and security especially if data management is handled by third-party contractors. There is also a need to know which agencies are prone to data “hostaging” so that this issue will not happen again, and like what happened in the Land Transportation Office and the National Bureau of Investigation, where there was a stoppage of operations and vital public services were affected.11

In a related statement, the Commission on Human Rights urged the government to identify accountabilities in the supposed data breach, saying it is important to uphold “the right to privacy in preserving human dignity as stated in various human rights documents, including the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Data Privacy Act of 2012”. It added that the passport data mess “poses grave national security issues, especially since the said data contain sensitive, personal information of Filipino passport holders.”11

The following day, January 15, Secretary Locsin took back his word and said that the former passport contractor did not run away with the data, but only made them inaccessible.2, 5 He said that “the DFA is taking the word of passport contractor APO Production Unit, a company under the Presidential Communications Operations Office11, that there is no breach in Filipino’s data” and there is “sufficient justification in removing the birth certificate requirement in the renewal of passports.”4

Secretary Locsin said that former contractor, French firm Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciare would not compromise another country’s security despite making the data inaccessible and that “they do not want to occupy us”.11

He also clarified that it was not possible for a contractor to have run away with personal data of those affected by the data breach at the DFA.11

Even former DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr., said Oberthur could not have run away with personal data of passport holders. He said that Secretary Locsin may have been misinformed about the supposed data breach. He added that the French firm withdrew from the agency when its contract expired. According to him, saying that Oberthur ran away with data would be “completely false and malicious”. He also told ANC’s “Headstart” on January 15, Monday, that “the only reason, compelling reason, I can see is because they wanted to deflect the real issue of the passport mess, which is awarding the production of the passport from an end-to-end basis”.11

Secretary Locsin posted on Twitter that the “data is not run-away-able but made inaccessible. Access denied. But APO assured me that they were able to access but not much use and parts corrupted”. 11

He revealed that APO agreed with him that old passports would be the best evidence of identity.11

He added, however, that “only a Senate investigation will assure the public that there was no breach or loss of data. Until then, the Department can give no assurances on the safety and security of some data.”4

In an interview, Secretary Locsin appealed for the public’s understanding as the agency tries to swiftly resolve issues in the processing of Philippine passports. 3

Here are my comments:

  1. Finally, a sigh of relief for the latest development of no longer requiring a birth certificate to renew a regular Philippine passport!
  2. I also commend Malacañang for its wisdom as well as its concern for all Filipinos by rejecting DFA’s original decision to require such a document for regular passport renewal. I totally agree, no red tape please, in any government agency!
  3. I likewise concur with DFA’s 4 premises, cited as bases for the said order1:

a. Every Filipino has the constitutional right to travel which cannot be impaired, except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.

Definitely, an internal problem, or change of passport maker contractors, should never create an additional requirement for renewing one’s regular passport!

b. Republic Act No. 8239, or the “Philippine Passport Act of 1996”, imposes only minimum documentary requirements for the application and issuance of regular passports and other travel documents.

So, why did DFA Assistant Secretary (ASec) Cato immediately announce the birth certificate requirement for regular passport renewal, only for Secretary Locsin to take it back days after, thereby causing unnecessary stress among concerned Filipinos?

c. Section 7 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Passport Act does not require the presentation or submission of birth certificates in the renewal of passports, and instead requires only the submission of a duly accomplished application form and the old passport, unless there is a change in the status of the applicant or change in the passport entries.

Again, with this provision in the IRR for passport issuance, why did an ASec immediately announce an additional passport requirement, when it will only be overturned by the DFA Secretary himself, days after?

d. The DFA recognizes the need to enhance the convenience of, and unburden the public and passport applicants from unnecessary requirements for the renewal of passports.

So, dear DFA officials, always bear this in mind when a decision has to be made re this matter.

We, Filipino Senior Citizens, hope that we will not be stressed again re the renewal of our passports since we just want to enjoy our remaining/limited traveling years. Thank you very much!

4. The National Privacy Commission (NPC) must immediately release the results of its investigation re this issue and make a formal announcement for all concerned Filipinos to understand what really happened.

5. Yes, as a Filipino, I am looking forward to a Senate inquiry to get the whole picture of what happened, determine who is/are at fault, ascertain if there is any breach in Filipino privacy, and come up with measures so that this will not happen again, not only in the DFA, but other government agencies as well.

6. The DFA should explain why they had to change the passport maker and why the former system was not made accessible/compatible with the system of the new contractor? Is there really a need for a new contractor to begin with? Can’t the former contractor upgrade its technology/system to meet the new requirements of DFA? I am not techie but should there have been a turnover of data for the smooth operation of passport making?

DFA should be transparent with the terms and conditions of the contract with the new passport maker, with appropriate safety nets as to the privacy of Filipino passport holders, and technical protocol so that this issue will not happen again.

7. In this fast-paced world of technology, other Philippine government agencies must learn from this issue, and ensure that they will not experience this kind of technological problem when it comes to third-party contractors.

The Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) ID, for instance, will soon be implemented. The lead agencies must be careful in choosing a reputable contractor and come up with a contract which will ensure that the system is safe so all Filipinos will be assured that their personal information is safe and there will be no red tape ever!

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1https://dfa.gov.ph/dfa-news/dfa-releasesupdate/19085-dfa-department-order-on-the-documentary-requirements-for-the-renewal-of-regular-passports

2https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/681538/birth-certificate-no-longer-needed-in-renewing-passport-locsin/story/

3http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/10590177

4https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/01/15/1885356/locsin-signs-order-ending-birth-certificate-requirement-passport-renewal#0txzR2KWprkWuhf2.99

5 https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/15/19/no-need-for-birth-certificate-to-renew-passport-locsin

6https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/01/12/1884444/dfa-passport-maker-runs-all-data

7https://globalnation.inquirer.net/172423/bring-birth-certificates-when-renewing-passports-dfa

8https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/12/19/national-privacy-commission-to-probe-dfa-passport-data-mess

9https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/12/19/locsin-says-pissed-contractor-took-all-passport-data

10https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/14/19/cumbersome-palace-rejects-birth-certificate-requirement-for-passport-renewal

11https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/01/15/1885309/passport-data-not-run-away-able-says-locsin#4jPMO6mszgErkHGD.99

Say, Say, Say! – 2019 ADDITIONAL RENEWAL REQUIREMENT FOR PHILIPPINE PASSPORTS ISSUED BEFORE 2010

NOTE: See the update re this issue in a related post: Say, Say, Say! – The 2019 RENEWAL OF PHILIPPINE PASSPORT ISSUE

Have you heard the latest news re the DFA and renewal of Philippine passports for 2019? If not, read on!

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., announced that the Department of Foreign Affairs needs to rebuild their “files from scratch because [their] previous outsourced passport maker took all the data” when its contract was terminated. 1

He added: “Because [the] previous contractor got pissed when terminated it made off with data. We did nothing about it or couldn’t because we were in the wrong. It won’t happen again.2 Passports pose national security issues and cannot be kept by private entities. Data belongs to the state.”1

So, what are you waiting for, dearest Filipino readers? Recall the year when you got your passport or go to your drawer and check the year when your passport was issued.

If your passport was issued 2010 or later, breathe deeply, and consider yourself lucky because you are not affected at all! Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said that “passports issued after 2009 need not submit their birth certificates as the digital copy of said document has already been captured and stored in our database”.3 And more importantly, your personal information is still intact in the DFA’s database, thank God!

However, if your passport was issued on 2009 or earlier, you are definitely affected! You have to present your birth certificate when you renew your passport. So, better locate your NSO birth certificate. What? You do not have one? Well, you need to apply for one and you can get it within three working days. However, I think your more urgent concerns are: that the birth certificate you submitted to the DFA office when you applied for your passport was taken away by a private firm whose services were terminated by the former, and that your privacy could have been breached!

DFA Assistant Secretary Cato said that “applicants renewing brown or green passports or maroon machine-readable passports are required to submit birth certificates because we need to capture and store the document in our database as we no longer have the physical copy of the document submitted when they first applied”.3 Recall that before the country transitioned to the e-passport, the DFA required the submission of physical copies of birth certificates and marriage contracts, he said.1

According to Cato, the DFA stopped issuing the machine readable-ready and machine readable passports (MRP) around 2010 to 2011. He said electronic passports or “e-passports” are passports which contain a microchip.2

Furthermore, Cato said that there are still Filipinos who are in possession of expired MRP or older passports which have not been renewed yet.2

Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, demanded an explanation how a privately contracted firm can take an entire physical database of all Filipino passport holders and why the firm is not being sued. She said it “indicates a serious national security risk” and that the data should “be retrieved completely and with the highest sense of urgency and priority. Apart from that, the people responsible for such a gross display of incompetence should be held fully responsible.”3

Personally, I think that the victims of this unexpected data acquisition and additional passport renewal requirement are the Filipino people!

  1. Each responsible entity, especially a government agency like DFA, must have a disaster recovery system stipulated in any electronic-related contract, for a very confidential and important document, like a passport. If ever DFA would change contractors, the compatibility of the old system with the new one should be stipulated in the contract as well. So, pray tell us, DFA authorities, why can you mot recover the needed information so we need not submit a birth certificate to renew our passports?
  2. Our private information was obtained without our knowledge and consent! Is it really true that the passport maker could “run away” with such confidential data? Was this event not forseen by DFA authorities and stipulated in the contract? How assured are Filipino passport holders that their privacy is protected? How can we, Filipinos, be sure that such information will be kept private,  not only by DFA, but other government agencies as well, and will not be used for whatever purpose?
  3. This is compounded by an additional requirement for renewing our passports! Why do we have to suffer as a result of this DFA issue? Can our old passports suffice to prove our identity for passport renewal?

In fact, why can’t passports of adult Filipinos be renewed online at this day and age of technology, i.e., without personal appearance?

Recall that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Philippine Identification System Act (R.A. 11055) on August 6, 2018. Senator Panfilo Lacson, the author of the Senate bill on the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) ID, pointed out that the information gathered for this ID is already present in other government issued IDs such as voters’ IDs, passports and driver’s licenses. The PhilSys ID will store 13 sets of information, like full name, sex, birth date, birthplace, and photograph of the bearer, among others. I got this information from Wikipedia page “Philippine identity card”.4

Therefore, I am requesting the full implementation and funding of this ID system this year, 2019, so that ALL government agencies can get their act together and require less documents to be submitted for renewal thereafter, like DFA for the renewal of our passports! I also strongly plead for this ID system to be awarded to a reputable company who will handle the database with the best possible security features so that all Filipinos will be confident that their privacy will not be breached.

Did you find this post informative? What are your comments re this issue? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box.

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1https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/01/12/1884444/dfa-passport-maker-runs-all-data

2https://globalnation.inquirer.net/172423/bring-birth-certificates-when-renewing-passports-dfa

3https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/12/19/locsin-says-pissed-contractor-took-all-passport-data

4“Philippine identity card,” accessed January 12, 2019, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_identity_card.

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.

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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.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. What are your insights regarding Boracay’s closure and rehabilitation? 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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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!

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you regarding your comments regarding the reopening of Boracay. Simply scroll and click “Leave a comment”. Do share this post with your Facebook friends, follow me by clicking on the bottom right corner of your device, and do not forget to like this post.  Thank you!

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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:

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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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:

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

5The Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights is 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!

UPDATE (January 2019): The state of the trees look better, what with the street beautification project of the local government. I will take pictures the next time I get the chance to go to Sta. Cruz. Thank you for the porject but please check on the health of these old trees.

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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:

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