Dodwell's blog on SOM2 in Borocay - Post 1

May 11, 2015


Monday May 11 2015
 
APEC Boracay
 
When I die, and summarise the ten worst journeys in my life, the journey on Saturday from Manila to get to SOM2 in Boracay will count among them. An original 2.00pm flight from Manila to Caticlan close to Boracay was delayed, and delayed, and delayed again… eventually morphing after 6.00 into a flight to Kalibo – a dark and winding 90 minutes away from Caticlan. As delay mounted on delay, and passenger angst rose to fever pitch levels, the public announcement system got louder and louder, creating an ear numbing Babel. At one point, a sweet airport toilet supervisor came up to me, smiled assuringly, and explained the chaos: “We have to believe that God had a plan,” she said. Thank goodness, the 30-odd APEC officials heading with me to Boracay and trapped in this Babel with me were nursed attentively through this chaos by designated airport staff.
 
In Kalibo, teams of APEC volunteers wrought order out of chaos as they rescued our bags, and bundled us into a nine-vehicle convoy to Boracay, topped and tailed by siren-blaring police escorts. Instead of arriving at the bucolic Boracay ferry in daylight, it was dark, late and confused as 30 over-dressed officials and their oversized luggage were crammed into creaking bancas for the 15 minute sea ride to Boracay island. Surely a surreal start to the three week Senior Official cluster of meetings.
 
Since Saturday night, we have been penned in subterranean meeting rooms – which for me meant the Oceans and Fisheries Working Group. Only today, by foregoing lunch, was I able to walk blinking out into the blinding sunlight and five minutes away to the famous Boracay beach front.
 
I last came to Boracay, in the eye of a Christmas typhoon, in 1995. The bucolic resort island is the stuff of romantic dreams for every Philippine couple. This is honeymoon central. But in the 20 years since I last came, developers have moved in, hotels have blossomed, and developers have carelessly allowed their effluent to wash untreated into the tourquise sea just yards away. The result – water pollution the World Health Organisation says is 46 times worse than anyone should safely swim in. The sea becomes tourquoise, but only after 20 yards of rust-coloured surf lapping on the white sand beach. This gave poignant resonance in the Ocean and Fisheries Working Group discussions on Sunday and Monday on Integrated Coastal Management, on marine debris, and on the “Blue economy”. Awkward, but timely.
 
As with the SOM1 meetings in February, split between Clark and Subic Bay, so the SOM2 meetings are spread across four hotels, which is confusing, but not as time consuming as in Clark. But as soon as spirits flag at one snippet of chaos or another, a beaming, friendly Filipino volunteer seems magically to appear at your elbow to sweep you forward. What a treasure is that wondrous Filipino smile.
 
Boracay-meeting.JPG
Oceans and Fisheries Working Group
 
Boracay-sailed banca.JPG
APEC- Sailed Banca
 
Boracay-Crown Recency.JPG
Crown Regency - Home to the majority of APEC meetings for the next two weeks
 
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