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By Lily O Ramos

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) is extending its full support to the Caticlan airport expansion project which, upon completion, is expected to accommodate 1.2 million passengers annually from its present capacity of 700,000.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

FROM hushed conversations in nightspots to loud deliberations in the provincial board of Aklan, prostitution in Boracay Island has caught the attention of government agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs).

The thriving sex trade in the island-resort was revealed during a briefing on the effects of tourism on children in Boracay last week.

The Aklan Provincial Technical Working Group and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s committees on laws, health, and women sponsored the briefing.

The End Child Labor Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), an NGO that combats child prostitution, presented a report on the extent of child prostitution.

The ECPAT report – Situational Analysis of the Effects of Tourism on Children in Boracay – claimed that six bars and resorts in Boracay Island are tolerating child prostitution.

ECPAT also said that some of these alleged child prostitutes are residents of the island who are driven to sell their bodies due to poverty.

The study found that the girls frequent nightspots in the island bars and show themselves off to potential clients through sexy or dirty dancing or simply hanging out in the bar.

“While it is a fact that tourism in Boracay has obviously brought in money for the government, it too has its social costs. Boracay attracts not just responsible tourists who compose the majority, but also visitors whose purpose to travel is to exploit and engage in sexual activities involving children. This situation in turn makes other children in Boracay highly at risk due to exposure to the trade,” the ECPAT report said.

MINORS                         

Another study on commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Boracay cited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) identified 11 young women and three boys most of whom were actively involved in the sex trade.

Of the 11, five were minors, aged between 14 and 17, at the time of the interview. All 14 of them claimed they were sold by a pimp to a foreign client. All children said their first sexual abuses happened when they were 11-15 years old.

Some 337,666 tourists arrived in Boracay January to May 2009, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said.

Koreans constitute the largest number of these tourists at 30,369. They are also among the most frequent sex tourist clients based on ECPAT’s interview with child prostitutes.

Other foreign sex tourists come from Japan, France, Germany, England, China and the United States. The study, however, showed that there were also Filipino sex clients and even foreign gay tourists who seek young boys as sexual partners.

The “lady boys” was coined here to refer to prostituted males and boys dressing and acting like girls. The study showed they were more prone to violence and discrimination.

The CSEC victims interviewed claimed that payment for their sexual services vary depending on the time the client wants to spend with them.

On the average, they get P1,500 to as much as P5,000 from 30 minutes to a whole night of service. These alleged child prostitutes identified in the study claimed they have at least one to two customers per night. Peak season in Boracay also spells more customers for the minors.

RESPONSES

The ECPAT report prompted government agencies such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), DSWD, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to put a rescue mechanism in place in the Island resort.

DOLE 6 Regional Director Aida M. Estabillo directed their provincial office in Aklan to monitor and conduct inspection of establishments that are allegedly tolerating child prostitution.

Estabillo said she directed the Provincial Sagip Batang-Manggagawa Quick Action Team to joint efforts with law enforcement agencies and other entities to rescue child prostitutes in the island.

“This situation needs to be addressed immediately before it balloons and gets out of hand,” she added.

DOLE 6 said it regularly inspects establishments in Boracay but found no information on the existence of child labor. Night operating establishments are yet to be inspected, the agency said.

The PNP also asked help from other stakeholders to help in the campaign against child prostitution.

C/Insp Eugene Rebadomia, Boracay police chief, said they have no facility where children rescued from the sex trade can temporarily stay.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN airline suspended its flights to Caticlan in Malay, Aklan after aviation authorities ordered new operating procedures in the Godofredo Ramos Airport in the said town.

In a statement, Cebu Pacific airline said it will suspend its Manila-Caticlan flights starting July 9 until further notice after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) imposed the “one-way landing, one-way take-off” policy.

“We have therefore decided to divert all Caticlan flights to Kalibo instead and from there bus all our Boracay-bound passengers at no extra cost,” said CEB President and CEO Lance Gokongwei.

The new CAAP policy started June 26, a day after a Zest Air plane carrying 55 passengers and crew overshot the Caticlan airport.

The Caticlan airport, which is the gateway to Boracay Island, has Runways 06-24. Before the CAAP order, pilots could use either runways for take off or landing.

The CAAP discouraged using runway 24 for landing because of a 39-meter hill near the runway.

The CAAP ordered that runway 06 will be used for take off only while runway 24, which is 950 meters long, will be used for landing only.

In its investigation, CAAP found the Zest Air plane attempted to land on runway 24 but touched down past the landing area marked by white grid lines while trying to avoid the hill.

The plane’s momentum carried it beyond the runway’s end and settled on a grassy area of the field.

The one-way landing, one-way take-off policy will take effect while the Caticlan airport is being rehabilitated. This policy on the airport has been published in the Aeronautical Information Publication since last year.

CEB has been operating direct flights to Caticlan since February 29, 2008 and has since then carried over 340,000 passengers.

CEB mounted as many as 15 round-trip flights daily to Caticlan until June 25.  More than 60,000 booked passengers will be affected by the cancellation.

Gokongwei said “We continue to work closely with our industry partner, the CAAP, to find a speedy resolution, to these airport issues, to allow Cebu Pacific to re-instate flights to Caticlan.

“Boracay continues to be one of the country’s most important tourism destinations.   CEB’s low fare service has been integral to the growth and development of the island’s tourism industry and has increased its accessibility to both local and foreign tourists.” 

Affected passengers may call the call center (02) 702-0888 / (032) 230-8888 or visit the website http://www.cebupacificair.com for more details and updates on their flights.

Also, the CAAP, upon recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao), shortened the length of the two runways.

Runway 06 was reduced from 950 meters to 825 while runway 24 was reduced to 875 meters.

The restriction was adopted following an inspection by foreign consultants hired by the CAAP to assess the airport.

The consultants said the runways’ design posed a real hazard to aircraft operations.

Tourists enjoy the Boracay experience while businessmen wait a little before they can own a piece of the paradise island. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Tourists enjoy the Boracay experience while businessmen wait a little before they can own a piece of the paradise island. (Photo by Tara Yap)

SC: Bora businessmen can’t apply for land titles

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Supreme Court has ruled that business establishments in Boracay Island cannot yet apply for titles to the lots on which their investments stand.

In a 35-page decision, the SC ruled that Boracay remains unclassified land of the public domain and is considered public forest under Presidential Decree No. 705 (Revised Forestry Code).

The SC ruling means that the government is still the owner of Boracay despite Proclamation No. 1801 declaring the island resort a public forested land.

The SC case stemmed from two consolidated cases assailing the Court of Appeals decision which affirmed the ruling of the Regional Trial Court in Kalibo, Aklan.

The Kalibo RTC earlier granted the petition for declaratory relief filed by lot claimants Mayor Jose Yap and several others and ordering the survey of Boracay for titling purposes.

The second petition sought the prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No. 1064 issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo classifying Boracay into reserved forest and agricultural land.

The high tribunal said there must be “a positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable” before parcels of Boracay Island can be owned by private individuals.

“In keeping with the presumption of State ownership, the Court has time and again emphasized that there must be a positive act of the government such as an official proclamation, declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for agricultural or other purposes,” the SC said.

The SC added that Proclamation 1801 merely declared the island resort and other islands as tourist zone or marine reserve.

“The whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale behind the declaration of Boracay Island, together with other islands, caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as a tourist zone and marine reserve to be administered by the PTA (Philippine Tourism Authority) – to ensure the concentrated efforts of the public and private sectors in the development of the areas’ tourism potential with due regard for ecological balance in the marine environment. Simply put, the proclamation is aimed at administering the islands for tourism and ecological purposes. It does not address the areas’ alienability.”

Also, the SC pointed out that Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island, but 64 other islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines, “such as Fortune and Verde Islands in Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental Mindoro, Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto Princesa and surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin Island in Cagayan de Oro, and Misamis Oriental, to name a few.”

“If the designation of Boracay Island as tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue of Proclamation No. 1801, all the other areas mentioned would likewise be declared wide open for private disposition. That could not have been, and is clearly beyond, the intent of the proclamation.”

HOPE LINGERS

But Boracay businessmen still have a window of opportunity to own the lots on which their establishments stand.

“All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, this does not denote their automatic ouster from the residential, commercial and other areas they possess now classified as agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not mean lack of right to possess,” the SC said.

The high tribunal added: “Lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of improvements.

“They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession. For another, they may look into other modes of applying for original registration of title.”

Another mode where businessmen can finally own a piece of the island resort is by congressional act.

“Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain requirements under the present land laws. There is one such bill now pending in the House of Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill will become a law is for Congress to decide.”

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