DENR deploys 'mission team' to save Boracay

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 20) — More than a hundred government personnel will be deployed to Boracay to address the environmental issues of the island, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said Tuesday.

The first "mission team," which was deployed Tuesday, is composed of 50 personnel from six regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The environment chief said the island will be divided into six areas and each of the six regions will be assigned an area to work on.

"The mission of the team will be to rehabilitate and restore Boracay into becoming (once) again a paradise. We are given six months by the President," Cimatu said in a press release.

Meanwhile, in a speech in Cebu City on Tuesday, Cimatu revealed another group consisted of 100 DENR personnel from all regions will be going to Boracay on Thursday.

"They will conduct a thorough sweep of establishments on Boracay to inspect these establishments and   determine any illegal discharge of untreated wastewater into the sea, the encroachment into public/forest lands and wetlands, and illegal constructions within the easement areas," he said.

The DENR said it is committed to address the island's environmental issues.

"I assure you that we shall not relent in our efforts until we have turned around the condition of Boracay. We will save Boracay," he said.

Cimatu earlier warned commercial establishments releasing untreated sewage into Boracay's waters to "shape up" or risk closure, following President Rodrigo Duterte's threats on February 19.

The President likened the island to a "cesspool," and warned he would shut the island down due to pollution.

The DENR has since issued notices to 51 unnamed establishments that failed to comply with the country's water treatment laws. Violating companies were given two months to either install their own wastewater treatment facilities or to connect to the island's sewage treatment plant. If they do not comply, the DENR said they will be closed.

The Malay Municipal Tourism Office said the island saw over two million visitors from January to December 2017, a 16-percent increase from the number of tourist arrivals in 2016.