VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Viral ‘before and after’ photos of Boracay MISLEADING, shows 2 different beaches on island

A collage of photos that has reached thousands of people on Facebook (FB) claiming to show Boracay Island before and after Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s six-month cleanup effort in 2018 is misleading. It uses images of two different areas on the island.

On Feb. 26, FB page Unofficial: Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa Solid Supporters published an album of 41 before-and-after photos showcasing the current administration’s “accomplishments.”

The first image in the album, captioned “Boracay,” presents two photos of shorelines: the image on top labeled “BEFORE DUTERTE” shows a muddy coast filled with trash, while the one below labeled “AFTER DUTERTE,” features a clean shoreline of pristine, white sand and clear, aqua blue waters.

The two photos being shown by the FB post as images of the same place are of two different beaches in Boracay.

The first one that shows a polluted coastline is a picture taken in March 2012 of Bulabog Beach, the island’s water sports beach. It was uploaded by photographer Sandy Broenimann in December 2013 on iStock, a stock images archiving company under Getty Images.

The earliest version of the photo on the Web that doesn’t carry the iStock watermark can be found in an August 2016 article by Smithsonian Magazine.

The second photo is not one of Bulabog Beach after the Duterte-ordered rehabilitation, but shows instead Station 3, the southernmost portion of Boracay’s world-renowned beach stretch that is more popular to tourists and locals alike.

It is from a June 2018 FB post by former Department of Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Piñol on the clean-up and rehabilitation of Boracay Island.

A quick look at Station 3 using Google Earth would reveal the same mountain range visible in the background of Unofficial: Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa Solid Supporter’s photo, as well as the same building with a blue and u-shaped roof at the lower left portion of the image.

More, Bulabog Beach and Station 3 are situated on opposite sides of the island, helping disprove that the images are before-and-after captures of the same location.

The image of the polluted Bulabog Beach was also previously used in a story by Good News Network -- a website that has repeatedly been flagged by VERA Files Fact Check (VFFC) for publishing disinformation. The story was checked and debunked by VFFC in 2018.

Unofficial: Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa Solid Supporters’ misleading photo and album of accomplishments was published as the Duterte administration continues to be hounded by numerous issues -- the coronavirus disease outbreak, the controversy surrounding the ABS-CBN broadcasting franchise renewal, and Duterte’s’ termination of the decades-old visiting forces agreement with the United States, among others.

The inaccurate post has received more than 31,000 interactions on FB, and could have reached around 3.4 million netizens. FB pages Unofficial: Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa Solid Supporters itself and Duterte Bato, as well as public FB group Van, Suv, Kotse at Truck For sale generated the most traffic to the photo.

Unofficial: Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa Solid Supporters was created on July 6, 2016.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)


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