No conflict of interest in Boracay probe – Villar

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Cynthia Villar said there is no conflict of interest in her investigation into the status of Boracay despite her family’s ownership of at least two properties in the famed resort island.

Villar, head of the Senate environment committee, earlier flew to Boracay where she inspected properties that violate laws and conducted a hearing on the island’s status.

At the time, Villar did not publicly disclose that her family’s conglomerate, Vista Land, owned Boracay Sands Hotel and has a stake in residential condominium Costa de la Vista.

Asked about it, Villar said media reported the purchase of the Boracay Sands property when Vista Land bought it years ago.

“It’s in the papers when we bought that property. It’s common knowledge. It’s a very small property. They were trying to do the hotel business only, it’s a 50-room hotel,” Villar, the richest senator, told reporters on Wednesday, March 7.

Villar said even if the government orders the closure of Boracay Sands, it won’t affect their business. She also clarified that Costa La Vista is a joint venture between Vista Land and another company, which she did not mention.

“If they want to close it, they can close it. It won’t matter to Vista Land,” Villar said.

“So I don’t care, I mean, I’m not managing our business. I don’t think it will affect our business kahit isara nila ang (even if they shut down) Boracay and I have done so much for the environment and I’m still doing it….I don’t think there is conflict of interest,” she said.

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that he would declare a state of calamity  in Boracay to put an end to its environmental woes, as proposed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

But Villar, in an earlier dzBB interview, said she is against the total closure of Boracay because it is bad for business. She said only businesses that violate the law should be shut down, since a total shut down would penalize even law-abiding businesses.

“Ang amin pong napagkasunduan [ni Environment Secretary Cimatu] na hilingin kay Presidente na huwag naman total closure. Paano natin mapapatupad ang compliance kung lahat pati compliant ay isasara? So nirequest naming na yung non-compliant lang ang ipapasara until na magcomply sila saka na lang sila magbukas uli,” Villar said on Sunday, March 4.

(What Secretary Cimatu and I agreed upon is to request the President not to order the island's total closure. How can we implement compliance if we also close businesses that are compliant? So we requested that only those that are non-compliant should be closed until they can comply again.)

Villar claimed their businesses in Boracay are compliant with the laws.

“Before I went to Boracay, I asked our company, compliant ba kayo? Kasi kung di kayo compliant I will not go to Boracay, mapapahiya pa ako (are you compliant? Because if you're not compliant, I will not go to Boracay. I'll just lose face),” Villar said. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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