By Analou De Vera
An inter-agency task force formed to address the environmental problems Boracay Island is now facing has recommended a total closure of the world-famous resort.
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 inter-agency panel 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,”Cimatu said, as he read the joint recommendation of the three agencies.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte is expected to make a “fair” decision devoid of any political consideration and keeping in mind the welfare of small businesses in the tourist destination.
“He will move because of his genuine concern on the need to protect the beauty of Boracay for the future generation,” Roque said.
Closing the island to tourists, Cimatu said, will give the inter-agency task force ample time for the undisrupted implementation of various measures that will be undertaken “to restore and eventually sustain Boracay Island as a prime tourism destination.”
The following measures were recommended by the three 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,” said Año.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito is open the proposal to close Boracay for a year. “That will be worth considering. Boracay has been abused and exploited through the years,” he said.
But other balked at the prospect of closing down the island.
“A one-year total closure may not be the best solution for the island and its locals,” said Senator Nancy Binay.
“Although we all agree that a moratorium on building construction be imposed, and we share the same observation that over-commercialization has created a serious environmental disaster,” Binay said.