By Analou De Vera
Total closure for a maximum of one year was recommended by the interagency task force to address the looming environmental problems that the world-famous Boracay Island is now facing.
The joint recommendation was announced during a meeting on Thursday attended by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu, Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo and Interior and Local Government Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año.
The government officials proposed to President Duterte the “closure of the Boracay Island as tourist destination for a maximum of one year effective one month after its declaration,” said Cimatu, as he read the joint recommendation of the three agencies.
Cimatu stated that closing the island to tourists will give them ample time for the undisrupted implementation of the different measures that will be undertaken “to restore and eventually sustain Boracay Island as a prime tourism destination.”
The following measures were recommended by the agencies during the proposed closure of the Island:
- Upgrading of the sewerage system including the sewer lines to meet the requirement of the entire island as a major tourist destination;
- Installation of all required solid waste management facilities and mechanisms in addition to full compliance with the provisions of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act;”
- Removal of illegal structures in forestlands and wetlands, easement areas and even geologically hazardous areas such as those with sink holes;
- Road widening/ construction, pipe laying and excavations; and
- Rationalization of transport system.
The total closure will take effect 30 days after President Duterte declared a state of calamity in the island. “We are recommending to the President the declaration of the State of Calamity and then after a month, declaration of the closure of Boracay,” Año said.
Meanwhile, Teo said they already coordinated with the different airlines for rebooking of flights and encouraged tourists to visit other travel destinations in the country.
Cimatu said that from 2016, their monthly monitoring results revealed high concentration of fecal coliform in Bulabog beach, which is located at the eastern portion of the Boracay Island.
The Bulabog beach, according to Cimatu, is frequently use by tourists for kite boarding sports. “There are incidents of tourists complaining of skin diseases which included a foreigner complaining on TV” Cimatu said.
In terms of solid waste management, Cimatu reported that about 90 to 115 tons of garbage is being generated per day, “however, the LGU (local government unit) can haul out only 30 tons per day, hence leaving 85 tons of waste in the island per day.”
Cimatu also added that the island’s centralized Materials Recovery Facility has been converted into a dumpsite.
Moreover, the agencies initially identified that there were 937 illegal structures within the forestlands and wetlands, as well as 102 establishments were illegally built within the easement areas, Cimatu said.
After a month that the agencies have started the cleanup, “numerous non-compliant establishments were issued notices of violations and show cause orders, and some establishments conducted voluntary demolitions,” Cimatu noted.
“Nevertheless, much remain to be done to restore the island to its pristine condition,” Cimatu said.