Roque: Boracay open this Holy Week; no closure date yet

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — The Palace confirmed Thursday Boracay will remain open for visitors during Holy Week.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said guests are allowed to visit Boracay island during the break up until the peak season, or the summer, as the specific date for the island's closure has yet to be set.

"Proceed to Boracay especially since it's Holy Week. We're looking at possibly, if the President finally accepts the recommendations, lean season," Roque said.

The announcement was made in the wake of an appeal by Boracay businessmen to set the possible closure of Boracay to June and September when tourists are scarce. 

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier said April 26 was the target date for the closure. The Holy Week is from March 26 to April 1.

"No specific instruction has been made by the President and if he has made a decision, I would be most certainly the first to announce it, " Roque added.

On Wednesday, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) announced plans to construct a multimillion-dollar hotel-casino on Boracay despite the possible closure. However, Roque addressed the impossibility of the development for now given that a moratorium is in place for all casinos on the island.

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"They should know that all their development plans hinges on what the President will decide upon on the issue of Boracay. They can't build even if they wanted to because of the moratorium," he said.

Moreover, should PAGCOR insist on building the new hotel-casino, which would ideally span 23 hectares, Roque said they would have to adhere to a zero-discharge system, which is a water reusing and recycling system.

Wastewater treatment

Roque said the main problem of Boracay remains to be improper wastewater disposals directed to the ocean.

He added the problem should have been prevented given that resort owners with the capacity of over 50 guests are required to have their own Sewage Treatment Plant (STP).

On February 13, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu issued an ultimatum for "erring establishments"  to either install their own wastewater treatment facility or connect to the Boracay's STP within two months, or face closure.

Read: DENR: Erring Boracay establishments have 2 months to 'shape up'

Roque said the option to connect with Boracay's existing sewage system is hindered by the lack of infrastructure for both drainage and sewage treatment facilities.

"The option is to connect with the sewage system maintained by Manila Water or Boracay Water. The problem is all the existing infrastructure appear to be insufficient now, which explains the backflow of sewage materials even in 7-star hotels in Palawan," said Roque.

In order to effectively proceed with an "unimpeded" construction of additional sewage treatment facilities, he said the closure of Boracay was necessary.