Senator eyes creation of Boracay authority

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The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force is eyeing a September 'soft-opening' of the island.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 20) A senator on Wednesday proposed the formation of a body to handle all concerns about Boracay and its rehabilitation.

Senator Franklin Drilon said a Boracay Development Authority may be patterned after the existing inter-agency Task Force Boracay and will have the power to issue permits.

"Bawat isyu, ibang ahensya ang tumitingin. Hindi pa po kasali ang local government unit," said Drilon. "There is not a single body in charge."

[Translation: Every issue, a different agency looks at it. That doesn't yet include the local government unit. There is not a single body in charge.]

Drilon said with no point person or agency managing Boracay, permits and processes get confused and delayed along the way.

"Hindi po pupuwede patuloy ang ganito na bawat isang (agency), kakausapin mo," he explained.

[Translation: It's not okay that you have to talk to every single agency.]

Drilon's suggestion came after a number of questions from Senators Cynthia Villar and Sonny Trillanes, who asked for updates on Boracay's rehabilitation plan as well as the island's wastewater condition.

Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said Task Force Boracay is working on the island's rehabilitation, to be ready for a soft opening in the first week of September.

"With all due respect, pinag-aralan talaga namin ito [we really researched]," said Densing.

Densing added standards they plan to propose in the next Task Force meeting to which they will base the island's rehabilitation on:

  • 30 consecutive days that water within SB standards
  • at least 50 percent of the illegal structures in the wetlands should have been dismantled
  • 70 percent of the road system and the drainage system should be in place
  • all structures violating the 25+5 meter easement rule should be dismantled
  • sanitary landfill should have zero waste
  • five wetlands lost should be replaced

However, Drilon and Villar said the goal is not realistic.

"We cannot finish in six months what we failed to do in several decades," Drilon added.

'Confused' water firms

Villar said with the way wastewater is being handled, the plan to have Boracay rehabilitated by October for its re-opening may not be feasible.

"You have only six months, and the major problem of Boracay is wastewater. If you cannot decide this, how can you solve the wastewater problem?"

When Villar, Senate Environment Committee chair, checked for updates on Boracay, she found out that the two water concessionaires in the island have not yet determined their areas of operation.

"How can you improve the wastewater if 'yung mag-i-implement ng wastewater facility, confused where they're supposed to operate?"

But members of the Boracay Task Force said the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority and the National Water Resources Board are still at odds over jurisdiction on the island among the two water concessionaires — Boracay Island Water Company (BIWC) and Boracay Tubi System Inc. (BTSI).

BIWC said out of 1,800 commercial accounts, only 51 percent are connected to the sewer system. Five percent of 4,300 residential accounts in BIWC are connected to the system as well.

Densing said another problem is illegal connections to the wastewater system.

"Minsan pa po, intentional talaga [Sometimes it's intentional]," Densing claimed.

But Villar said the delineation between the two water firms should be clear for accountability.

"Talagang ang mga tao sa Pilipinas, pasaway din. Pero kung ang gobyerno, hindi maayos, lalong nagiging pasaway," she said.

[Translation: People in the Philippines, rulebreakers. But if government can't fix itself as well, people tend to break the rules more.]