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PTA seal with Barbers' name dots Boracay's main road

BORACAY ISLAND—"Sino po si Barbers? Pulitiko ba siya? (Who is Barbers? Is he a politician?)"

This was the reaction of a fruit vendor on Boracay Island to the engraved name of Robert Dean Barbers, General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA), that have dotted the path walk along the main road of the island-resort.

Barbers has drawn flak from Boracay residents and resort owners for putting his name prominently along with the PTA seal on the P140-million PTA drainage system project on the island.

"He has no right (to put his name) because that (project comes from) our money. Why, is he running for office?" said a resort owner and a long-time resident of the island who asked not to be identified because of Barbers' position and authority.

Another resort owner and also a community leader said the practice shows "lack of professional ethics."

"People's money, not his personal money, was spent on that project. It's giving the wrong impression on how government officials spends our money," the resort owner said.

"It's bad taste... In our country, we don't have people like him," said a European expatriate.

Barbers downplayed the putting of the seal along with his name on the pavement.

"It was the project's architect who designed that. I was surprised when I saw it. But I don't see anything wrong with it," Barbers said in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Like the practice of many politicians who put their names prominently near bridges, waiting sheds, roads and bridges, Barber's name is prominently displayed along with the engrave PTA.

The seal is around two feet in diameter and spans almost the whole width of the concrete surface covering the drainage pipes. It is composed of three circular layers with the PTA logo at the center in red, yellow, white and blue.

Engraved in the second layer is the words "Philippine Tourism Authority 1973." The last and outermost later is the slogan "Pilipino sa Turismo ay Aktibo" and "Robert Dean S. Barbers" in blue.

The engraved seal can be found on the pavement almost every 50 meters on one side of the road along a four-kilometer stretch of the main road spanning Barangay Balabag at the center of the 1,000-hectare island to Barangay Manoc-Manoc at the southern end of the island.

The road is the main access way of the island's more than 13,000 residents and both foreign and local tourists. It is parallel to the stretch of the island's world famous white beach.

Hayden Bandiola, a bar owner and civil engineering graduate, said putting Barber's name or the PTA logo may every kilometer or mile" could be acceptable but not as close as it is now.

"It's his obligation to construct infrastructure projects," said Bandiola.

The PTA, tasked to develop, supervise and operate tourism projects and areas, has several projects on the island including the operation of the Boracay Water and Sewage System (BWSS).

The drainage system is among the measures being undertaken to help solve the flooding problem on the island.

Barbers said the installation of pipes is around 90 percent complete. But it has been stalled by right of way problems. The PTA has filed expropriation cases before the Kalibo Regional Trial Court for three areas for pumping stations to flush out rain water to the sea.

When asked by if he had plans to run for public office, Barbers said he has no such plans, citing the experience of his father, the late former Sen. Robert Barbers.

The former senator who ran for re-election in the May 10, 2004 elections but lost amid protest to get the last slot in the 12 senatorial seats to fellow administration candidate Sen. Rodolfo Biazon.

The PTA chief is among the four children of the late senator. His brother, Robert Ace, was former congressman of the 2nd District of Surigao del Norte and now governor of the province. Another brother, Robert Lyndon, also served as governor of Surigao del Norte. (Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Newstoday.info)

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