Saturday, March 17, 2012

Boracay and all its crazy ordinances

A couple of weeks ago I read on Red Pirates Pub's Facebook page that the Mayor's office had demanded that their beach garden be chopped down. Apparently, they were conducting a sweep of the beachfront to rid it of illegal permanent structures like shacks, gazebos, wooden buildings, and the like. But plants?

Red Pirates is tucked away into the far reaches of Station 3, away from the maddening crowd. It's a nice place with a laid-back vibe that it felt like I was not in Boracay at all. They have a nice little garden fronting the pub, which is a much-welcome refuge from all the chaos in the island. I don't have a proper photo of the garden but this is what a section of it looks like:


Thankfully the folks at Red Pirates have managed to get copies of these ordinances, with which they argued their case. Plants and shrubbery are in no way mentioned as illegal. In fact, the related ordinance states that preservation of trees and plants is mandatory.

It's just crazy how Boracay's local government is coming up with these stupid resolutions and how the people tasked to ensure their implementation are even more stupid. Not that I'm against everything; ordinances like the prohibition of smoking on the beach actually sits fine with me (and that's coming from a smoker).

However, some local ordinances are just downright absurd; or if not, it's the authorities themselves who don't fully understand the provisions, as was the case with Red Pirates. Here's but a few of them:

Municipal Ordinance No. 182, S. 2003:
An ordinance prescribing policies on pet dog ownership and providing penalties for violation thereof

Dogs need to be registered and vaccinated, I understand. Paying an annual license fee of Php 100 per dog in addition to the Php 225 initial registration and vaccination fees, not really. It's just too much of a moneymaking thing for me.

I also get that unsupervised dogs running loose raises concerns on visitor safety and cleanliness of the surroundings, but banning them totally on the beach? It's a shame. The provision below basically translates to dogs have nowhere to go but inside your house!


No wonder I don't see any of this nowadays, something that was once part of Boracay's charm:

DOGS OF BORA, Boracay, Malay, Aklan, Philippines
DOGS OF BORA, Boracay, Malay, Aklan, Philippines
DOGS OF BORA - Part 2 (Boracay Island, Philippines)
DOGS OF BORA, Boracay, Malay, Aklan, Philippines
DOGS OF BORA, Boracay, Malay, Aklan, Philippines
DOGS OF BORA - Part 2 (Boracay Island, Philippines)
DOGS OF BORA - Part 2 (Boracay Island, Philippines)

Stray dogs are caught and impounded, I get that, even as I'm trying to accept the reasonableness of the catching fee of Php 500 and impounding fee of another Php 500/day levied on the owner when redeeming his furry friend. Disposal of the dog on the fourth day of impoundment either through sale via public auction or putting the dog to death (Yes, how blatant! "Put to sleep" would be more appropriate.), I also (reluctantly) get that.

However, a seller in D' Talipapa once told us some horror stories concerning these impounding practices. I am just retelling her story here, which I have never verified as I have never been to their local pound. Anyway, her dog has been caught twice already, and she was very much aware of the ordinance. On both occasions, she immediately claimed her dog back because, as she told us, they never feed the dogs there. If this is true, how dare they charge a fee of Php 500 a day!

The seller also said it was as if the local authorities are just so bent on capturing dogs at the slightest instance, which reminds me of those traffic enforcers around Metro Manila who don't really direct traffic but are just lurking around the corners waiting for a traffic violator to emerge.

Municipal Ordinance No. 246, S. 2007:
An ordinance regulating sand castle making on the beaches around Boracay Island.

Does the ordinance's title alone make you tick? Yes, it's the reason for the "disappearance" of sandcastles on the beach.

But let's look at this one closely because the ordinance doesn't really prohibit all forms of sandcastle-building. If we are to go by the provisions stated in the ordinance, it only covers sandcastles for commercial purposes.

sandcastle-building regulations

Ergo, by all means I can build a sandcastle on the beach. The problem, however, is if the mindless authorities roaming along the beach actually understand this at all. Shall we do an experiment then, build a sandcastle and all that? And when someone tries to level it down, shove a copy of this ordinance to his face? Dare!

Nevertheless, I believe the issue here isn't really about the environment. I mean, the prohibition -- okay, the regulation -- of sandcastle-building is simply preposterous. Moreover, if you look at the following provisions below, you'll see the real rationale behind this absurd ordinance.

penalties for sandcastle infractions

No wonder sandcastles in Boracay nowadays are more like semi-permanent structures, conveniently built under the shade of a coconut tree. Walk by any sandcastle in Boracay and it's practically the same day in and day out except for the cheesy date carved into the structure.

SANDCASTLE FOR A FEE (Boracay Island, Philippines)

Gone are the days when throngs of children would troop to the beach along Station 1 everyday at around three in the afternoon to build sandcastles from scratch, and then level them all by sundown. Like bread, they were made "fresh" every single day. I appreciate such effort, and for what, 5, 10, 20 pesos per group of visitors wanting to have their pictures taken with the sandcastles? And now the local government wants a piece of the pie?

Municipal Ordinance No. 230, S. 2005:
An ordinance charging environmental and admission fee to all Boracay bound guests and tourists

Personally I have nothing against environmental fees. My beef is, where do they go? In Boracay's case, it's supposed to be as follows:

environmental fee

1. Are collections completely reported?
2. Is Aklan's 15% share dutifully remitted to the province and Malay's share deposited in a Trust Fund?
3. Is there such a Memorandum of Agreement existing between Aklan and the Municipality of Malay to detail the manner and purpose of how the 15% share reverts back to the latter?
4. What environmental and tourism programs and projects have actually been funded from Malay's net share?

Just asking.

The weird laws just keep on coming. Red Pirates also told me before that the local government wanted all paraws (outrigger sailboats) to be painted white, which does not bode well for Red Pirates because of their trademark red boats and plain, ad-free white sails. But really, what for? With this trend going on, I wouldn't be surprised if they're gonna ban sunbathing on the beach at some point.

Funny, but Boracay's local government seems to be okay with having stores that openly sell craftily-polished shells that, unbeknownst to the clueless buyer, are forbidden by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Unfortunately, I've been a victim of this before, and the shells were confiscated at the Caticlan airport. I made several calls to the local government but they just didn't care. The next time I'm in Boracay, though, I'm gonna make sure something happens. I haven't closed that chapter yet.

THE SINKING OF THE SUN (Boracay Island, Philippines)

In spite of all this, I'm still hopeful that Boracay's downward spiral is reversed. Or do you think that I should just accept its impending doom and simply enjoy what remains of its beauty while it lasts?
Copies of local ordinances obtained from


  1. Great blog!

  2. Monada de perros :D

    Besos desde

  3. amazing photos :D lovely place


  4. Looks like a really cool place :)

  5. These photos are so pretty. It's a beautiful place.

  6. Dear. These pictures are so wonderful. Feels like I need to be on vacation :)

  7. we were wondering where the environmental fee went also. The beach seems to be littered with plastic - surely at 75 pesos a pop each boat load of tourist would pay for someone to spend an our or two each day picking up the rubbish and shipping it off to some managed landfill. I feel like the need to compete with Thailand in the tourism stakes will ruin the islands - soon.

    1. I agree on that. It's actually both sad and infuriating to me.


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