By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar expressed doubt that the government will be able to finish rehabilitating Boracay Island within six months or less, considering the “serious” problems that have to be addressed to bring back its former glory.
Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, on Monday said she believes that it is impossible to restore the environmentally damaged Boracay in just six months, contrary to what government agencies had repeatedly promised.
“Baka sinasabi na lang nila yun, pero mabigat din yung problema. Kasi I think even if it — yung six months hindi rin nila matatapos (Maybe they are just saying that, but the problem is serious. I think they will not be able to finish it),” Villar told reporters in an interview Monday.
“Kasi tinitignan ko yung magagawa ng yung kanilang drainage system, tapos yung gagawa ng kanilang sewer system, and then yung sa tabi nun yung circumferential road — medyo mabigat din yun, hindi ba (We are looking at renovating the drainage system, the sewer system, and the circumferential road — those are quite serious, right)?” she asked.
Besides the drainage and sewer works, which, she said, are “already tedious,” Villar added that demolitions for those violating the 30-meter shoreline easement and illegal structures on forestland would also have to be done during the six-month shutdown.
She also noted that the drainage and sewer works are shouldered by private companies that could be restrained by lack of budget.
“Maybe it will be cleaner, but we cannot easily complete the infrastructure…I don’t think they will finish everything in six months. They will open it unfinished, I think,” she said.
Villar and other senators had opposed the total shutdown of the world-famous tourist spot, maintaining that erring businesses and structures should only be closed and demolished.
For Villar, rehabilittaing Boracay should be a “continuing process.”
“Improving a place and making it nice is forever. It’s a continuing process. What’s important is that the basic issues are corrected. And the attitude of the people, because they had an attitude that they don’t need to follow regulations. At least now, they know that they have to follow,” she said.
The Senate environment committee has deferred twice its hearing on the environmental mess facing Boracay. The second hearing was supposed to be held on April 10, and then April 17.
Villar said the Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Interior and Local Government asked for the postponement to meet stakeholders ahead of the closure of the island on April 26.
“Anyway, we can hold hearings when it is closed, for updates. I just don’t want to disturb them before the closure and make the people suffer because they were not met and they were not prepared. Let’s allow them to do their job for the meantime,” she told reporters.