By Ben Rosario
A total of P150 million has been allotted by the government for Boracay’s continued environmental restoration and preventive maintenance.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said yesterday a portion of the amount will be spent to safeguard the world-class tourist destination’s coastal and marine ecosystem.
The former Environment and Natural Resources secretary lauded government for the appropriation, saying that this would ensure that Boracay will continue to appeal to both local and foreign tourists.
“The fresh funding is a go, even if the government temporarily runs on a reenacted budget next year,” said Atienza.
He said the P150 million allocation will:
• Establish the Boracay Island Critical Habitat;
• Put into operation the Boracay Water Quality Management Area;
• Oversee landfills and materials recovery facilities;
• Monitor water and air quality around the island; and
• Support research on environmental pollution.
“The designated Boracay Island Critical Habitat covers some 750 hectares of forestland and coastal marine areas,” Atienza said.
A critical habitat is a specific geographic area that contains features essential to the conservation of endangered or threatened species.
“Boracay’s endemic species that require special protection and management include flying foxes and marine turtles,” Atienza said.
He said at least three species of flying foxes inhabit Boracay: the giant golden-crowned flying fox, the giant fruit bat and the small flying fox.
“The demarcated critical habitat is mainly in Barangays Balabag and Yapak, where the flying foxes are concentrated,” Atienza said.
Balabag and Yapak are two of Boracay’s only three barangays, the third being Manoc-Manoc. The island forms part of the Municipality of Malay in Aklan province.
“In the case of marine turtles, they may not produce offspring if their natural habitat gets disturbed by too many people around,” Atienza said.
The lawmaker also stressed the need to renew Boracay’s severely eroded coral cover.
“In the past, unchecked diving and snorkeling spoiled the island’s natural underwater habitat,” he said.
Atienza, former three-term mayor of Manila, previously backed the six-month shutdown and rehabilitation of Boracay. He even urged President Duterte to extend the environmental recovery plan to include Laguna Lake and Manila Bay.
Boracay was reopened on Oct. 26, but an interagency task force has restricted to 19,215 the total number of tourists allowed to stay on the island at any given time.