Rebuilding Boracay: Timeline, what to expect

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 5) — Tourists will again enjoy the pristine white beaches of Boracay as the government is set to re-open the island tomorrow, October 26, after a six-month rehabilitation.

The world-famous tourist destination has recently hogged headlines not for its pristine white beaches but because of the government's crackdown on erring establishments that have polluted the island.

February 9

President Rodrigo Duterte threatens to shut down Boracay, calling it a "cesspool."

"I will close Boracay. Boracay is a cesspool," he said. "You go into the water, it's smelly. Smell of what? Shit," Duterte says.

He orders the Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to clean up the tourist destination in six months.

February 13

Cimatu gives erring establishments two months to either install their own wastewater treatment facilities or connect to the Boracay Island Water Company sewage treatment plant.

He says only 50 to 60 percent of Boracay businesses comply with the Clean Water Act, while "all the rest direct their pipes to the canals which drain to the sea."

Cimatu also says the government will go after resort owners who have constructed buildings in Boracay's forestlands, which are considered "no-build zones" under the law.

He halts the issuance of environmental compliance certificates in Boracay to prevent the construction of new buildings there.

February 14

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) says 51 establishments are facing possible closure after they were found violating the Clean Water Act and issued notices of violation.

February 20

DENR deploys the first "mission team," composed of 50 government personnel tasked to inspect Boracay for any more violations.

DENR says more of its personnel would be assigned to address environmental issues in the island.

February 22

Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre tells CNN Philippines the government is studying proposals to declare a state of calamity in Boracay and shut the island down for as long as 60 days.

He says these suggestions were made during an inter-agency meeting with the tourism and environment officials.

The DENR also says the number of Boracay establishments with environmental lapses has gone up to 81.

February 26

Palace says Duterte mulls filing criminal charges against local government officials found failing to protect the natural environment in Boracay.

DENR says it has started the demolition of some illegal structures in Boracay.

March 1

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) announces a state of calamity is one of the options being explored for Boracay, which includes a 60-day closure of business operations.

March 2

The DILG reports over 800 establishments in Boracay have been found with violations since 2011.

Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources holds a public hearing on environment issues hounding Boracay. Its chairperson, Senator Cynthia Villar suggests closing only the erring establishments instead of shutting the whole island to business.

Cimatu also tells senators five in nine of Boracay's wetlands have been wiped out by a mall, a resort hotel, and around 100 illegal settlers, who pollute the island's water supply.

March 6

Duterte says he will place Boracay under a state of calamity.

March 7

Duterte continues to tackle the issue in public speeches, this time threatening to arrest those who will not cooperate in government efforts for Boracay's rehabilitation - including local government officials.

March 13

The local government of Malay, Aklan's ban on new buildings in Boracay takes effect. It lasts for six months, or up to September 13.

March 14

The Malay government closes down Boracay West Cove, a high-end resort, for failing to secure the necessary permits. West Cove's lawyer says the resort's management will challenge the move before the regional court.

March 15

Environment, Tourism and Interior departments recommend the declaration of a state of calamity in Boracay, to be followed by the temporary closure of the entire island to tourists.

They later reveal eyeing to effect the closure on April 26.

March 20

News breaks out that Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group got the green light for a casino and integrated resort from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. This plan is opposed by the DILG.

March 22

The Tourism Congress of the Philippines requests a meeting with Duterte to appeal the looming Boracay shutdown. It says 36,000 jobs are at stake if Boracay closes down.

Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores tells CNN Philippines the local government is fast-tracking Boracay's rehabilitation starting with the drainage and sewerage system, which it targets to be fixed by May 31.

March 26

DILG's Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs Epimaco Densing III says charges of serious neglect of duty are being prepared against some local officials. He says Miraflores, Malay Mayor Ceciron Cawaling, and even barangay captains could all face charges.

March 27

Tourist arrivals to Boracay island are still up amid a looming threat of closure, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo tells CNN Philippines.

The Provincial Tourism Extension Office counted arrivals from March 1 to 26 this year at 140,659, up by two percent during the same period last year.

April 4

Duterte orders the closure of Boracay for a maximum period of six months, starting April 26. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque tells CNN Philippines this unanimous decision was reached after a six-hour discussion among Cabinet members.

Major airlines announce scaling down services to Kalibo and Caticlan, the nearest airports going to Boracay. The Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific say affected passengers have the option to rebook, reroute, or refund.

April 9

Duterte says he has no master plan for Boracay.

He calls the island an "agricultural land" which he would subject to land reform once cleaned up.

He also denies reports there are plans to put up a casino in the island, saying "sobra na (that would be too much)."

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) warns Boracay establishments against terminating workers during the closure period, saying employees should be recalled back to work when Boracay reopens.

April 11

Cimatu says his department is investigating the issuance of environment compliance certificates to Boracay businesses. He says charges will be filed against DENR officials who issued the permits without basis.

April 17

Representatives of several government agencies meet with Boracay stakeholders to discuss the government's plans for the island, its residents, and workers.

The DILG says the island destination can have a soft opening in three to four months, if certain criteria are met.

April 24

Boracay's closure and rehabilitation will cost the economy close to ₱2 billion in six months, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) says.

NEDA Chief Ernesto Pernia says while the loss would be realized in the island and nearby municipalities, "the impact on the country as a whole will be minimal."

April 25

A day before the shutdown, two workers and a frequent visitor to the island file a petition asking the Supreme Court to stop the closure.

April 26

Boracay's shutdown takes effect for rehabilitation.

April 27

The government releases ₱448 million budget to assist over 17,000 registered workers in Boracay who were displaced by the temporary closure.

May 3

Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones says around 15 hectares in Boracay are ready for distribution to farmer beneficiaries.

May 4

The DOLE issues guidelines on the government's adjustment measures program, which falls under the Boracay Emergency Employment Program through Department Order no. 191-18.

May 10

Duterte assigns Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu as the chair of the inter-agency task force in charge of rehabilitating Boracay island.

May 16

Residents and a local government executive of Boracay say a mountain on the island was being levelled without a permit for an integrated resort owned by the family of Senator Cynthia Villar.

May 17

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque denies the purported unpermitted levelling of the mountain for a resort owned by Villar family.

May 26

Cimatu says the reopening of Boracay might not happen in October. He says the discovery of illegal pipelines on the beachfront has become a setback in saving the island.

May 27

Cimatu retracts earlier statement, maintaining that the timetable of Boracay's rehabilitation is right on track. He even says the process may even be completed earlier than six months.

May 30

Duterte declares the whole island as land reform area. He says lawmakers, who want to keep commercial establishments in the island, may opt to just allow it in a small portion of the tourist destination.

June 4

The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force presents monitoring results showing that most parts of Boracay's beach front have low coliform levels.

June 13

Duterte explains why he wanted to put the island under land reform, and distribute the parcels of land to the residents.

"So ibigay ko doon sa mga natives, so by the time na magnegosyo na and the big business will go in, hawak na nila ang titulo at pwede na nila ipagbili. Ang consolation ko is makahawak sila ng pera na malaki (So, I will give it to the natives, so by the time they will have business. And, the big business will go in, they already have the land title and can sell it. My consolation is that they can earn large amount of money)," he says.

June 14

Roque denies that Duterte was encouraging Boracay residents to sell their titled land to big firms.

June 20

Cimatu says there will be no change in the scheduled reopening of the island on October 26.

Senator Franklin Drilon proposes the formation of the Boracay Development Authority to handle all concerns about Boracay and its rehabilitation.

July 1

The results of a survey conducted by the Social Weather Services show that majority of Filipinos support the government's move to shut down Boracay.

The non-commissioned survey shows 64 percent of the respondents agreed to close the island destination for a year for its rehabilitation, while 16 percent disagreed and 20 percent of the respondents were undecided.

July 16

Some senators raise concerns on the rehabilitation process, with Senator Nancy Binay asking the inter-agency task force mandated to rehabilitate Boracay to identify first its exact carrying capacity.

July 20

The DENR suspends Boracay establishments' environmental compliance certificates pending their review.

Complaints against businessmen and local government officials are filed in connection with environmental problems hounding Boracay Island.

July 28

Cimatu says the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force will establish a one-stop shop to assist establishments on the island in complying government requirements to operate a business.

August 6

The Department of Public Works and Highways says the rehabilitation of Boracay Circumferential Road was "almost 40 percent complete" and that it will be passable just in time for the reopening of the island.

August 9

In an exclusive interview on CNN Philippines' The Source, Cimatu says the rehabilitation of the sewage system in Boracay would be completed by September.


Climatu, in the same interview, also says that environmental fees will stay when Boracay reopens in October, despite reported discrepancies in the collection by the local government of Malay town last year.

August 20

The Department of Interior and Local Government maintains that Boracay will be reopened on the scheduled date even if only 30 percent of establishments were expected to be ready to operate.

The DOT also says only about 3,000 rooms will be ready – a mere fifth of the rooms available before the closure. This figure encompasses quarters from various establishments across the three stations of Boracay.

August 23

The DENR announces that a 10-day dry-run would be conducted prior to the reopening.

The agency also tells the public to wait for the list of compliant establishments that will be allowed to operate during the reopening of Boracay before booking reservations in the island.

It says visitors will no longer be allowed to hold parties at the beach area and that they are looking for "safer alternatives" to fire dancing.

August 31

The DOT releases a list of Boracay establishments that have complied with the required government permits.

October 12

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered to lift the suspension of environmental compliance certificates of compliant establishments in Boracay as it nears its reopening.

October 13

The Department of Tourism released an updated list of accredited establishments allowed to operate when Boracay reopens on October 26. Hotels and resorts that are not indicated in the list were ordered to “cease and desist from making room bookings or sale for occupancy” until they have complied with the requirements.

October 14

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu says they shall stringently enforce a "no compliance, no operation" policy for establishments in the tourist destination during its partial reopening.

"We will be monitoring a lot of things, from managing the entrance, exit, and stay of the tourists, to enforcing rule of law on establishments that have been found to be non-compliant to laws and regulations," Cimatu says in a statement.

October 15

The government begins its dry run for the reopening of the island. The guests who are part of the dry run activities are residents of Aklan and other parts of Western Visayas.

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat says the test run is important to ensure everything is in place for the island's reopening.

On the same day, some areas of the beach front were spotted littered with trash.

October 17

The DENR says it would take legal action against Henann Group of Resorts for allegedly faking papers so it could operate on the island.

None of the six establishments under the company were in the list of resorts and hotels that are allowed to operate on the island.

The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, however, discovered the company submitted what appeared to be a fake DENR environment compliance certificate.

The document did not have a control number, an embossed seal, and a DENR endorsement letter.

October 19

Environment officials thumb down a request to operate made by the Henann Group of Resorts on Boracay Island while the establishment tries to secure necessary government permits.

October 20

Major airline companies such Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific announce they would be offering flights to Caticlan and Kalibo ahead of Boracay's re-opening.

October 22

The DOT releases a list of more resorts and hotels that are permitted to operate once Boracay re-opens. The list contains 116 accredited establishments offering a total of 5,677 rooms to tourists, up from 5,365 previously announced.

October 23

The Department of Agrarian Reform announces it will distribute some 3.1 hectares of land in Barangay Manocmanoc to Ati tribe in November. This is in line with President Duterte's previous statement that he wants to place the world-famous island under land reform.