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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Boracay developers not worried over contamination controversy (1997)

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SOME OF Boracay’s resorts forget they are competing with better-equipped resorts amid a region-wide financial crisis.

[BusinessWorld, The Provinces, July 2, 1997]

By Annie Ruth C. Sabangan

The three biggest property developers on Boracay Island said they are not threatened by the publicized report of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that documents high contamination by coliform bacteria of waters of the island.

Noel M. Carino, chairman of Fil-Estate Land, Inc. (FELI), said the firm had been aware of the deteriorating condition of the environment on the island even before it ventured into its 117-hectare Fairways and Bluewater Resort, Golf and Country Club.

He said this is why the project incorporated environment protection features. These features include two sewage treatment plants, which island residential communities and small beach resorts can use as well. Mr. Carino added FELI will buy a P10-million motor raker to rid the beach’s seven-kilometer shoreline of coliform, which indicates contamination of the water by fecal matter.

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Mr. Carino described the DENR report as a blessing in disguise since it prods people and firms concerned to search for solutions.

Mr. Carino agreed with Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Victor Ramos the island’s environment can be rehabilitated in three to five years, although Mr. Ramos said it could take as much as 10 years.

Allen Mojica, spokesman of Prime Town Property Group, said the firm was not alarmed by the report since it was inconclusive and the environmental damage of the island is far from being irreversible. The firm owns 25 hectares of undeveloped beachfront on the island.

Moreover, the firm’s P2.9-billion condotel project will not be affected by the recently reported cancellation of tourist reservations. This, Mr. Mojica said, is because the condotel caters more to those thinking of permanent ownership. He added a projected drop in
prices should encourage purchase of properties on the island.

A source from Ayala Land, Inc., which owns 80 has. of undeveloped prime land, also said the fact the report is inconclusive means investors should not be alarmed.

Levels of contamination of waters of Boracay by coliform may actually be declining. In a recent press statement, Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor recalled Mr. Ramos as telling her more recent tests of water samples taken from the island show coliform count has decreased fourfold from the average level recorded during the last quarter of last year.

She noted further DENR Western Visayas executive director Raoul Geollegue had said the high coliform level late last year was expected since it was the peak season for tourist activities on the island. He had added it takes a year of tests to definitively declare water in an area as unfit for bathing.

Ms. Gabor said the Department of Tourism (DoT), the DENR, and the local government unit concerned have been implementing the P436.56-million Boracay Environmental Infrastructure Project, which was initiated in 1992 with Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund support; constructing a sewage treatment plant, incinerator and landfill facilities; and operating the Malay Water District.

“The safety of tourists and the Boracay islanders is a major concern of the DoT. The DoT would be the first to announce the need to close down resorts for safety reasons if it is warranted. But through close coordination with DENR, we have been assured there is no
cause for alarm if proper environmental measures are being taken. And these measures are under way,” Ms. Gabor said.