Boracay rehabilitation on track, set to open in October - Environment Secretary

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 20) — It's definite. The country's top tourist destination-Boracay Island will reopen not later than October 26, this year.

During the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Boracay Rehabilitation yesterday, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu reiterated there will be no change in the scheduled reopening of the island.

Boracay was closed on April 26 this year for a six-month rehabilitation after government found rampant violations of the environmental laws on the island.

After the meeting, Cimatu told reporters compliant resorts and establishments may now accept early bookings and reservations from guests who want to visit the island starting October 27.

However, Cimatu advised establishments with violations not to accept advanced bookings until it had complied with the proper requirements and corrective measures.

Cimatu, who is the chair of the Task Force, was accompanied during the meeting by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and other officials.

Año, who is one of the vice-chairs of the Task Force, said they are pleased with the progress of the rehabilitation efforts.

Cimatu reported yesterday the following accomplishments of the Task Force while the rehabilitation is into its second month since closure:

  • Identification of relocation sites and housing for illegal occupants and affected workers
  • Coordination with businesses for the maintenance of the wetlands
  • Conducted scientific study for the geo-hazard of the island
  • DILG's identification of businesses violating permit requirements
  • PNP's strategizing its presence in the island
  • DPWH's overtime work for clearing and road widening

The Public Works department said the road construction projects in Boracay will be in full swing by July.

DPWH personnel will work 16 to 24 hours a day to complete the road widening in Boracay's main roads, the circumferential road and the more than 5-kilometer diversion road from Cagban port.

The diversion road will serve as passage for vehicles transporting goods and logistics.

The island's power distributor-Aklan Electric Cooperative (AKELCO) has appealed for funding from the national government to help them purchase the needed new posts that will replace more than 400 electrical posts affected by the road widening.

Water quality

On the issue of water quality, especially the Bulabog beach area, Cimatu said there has been improvement as indicated in the latest water sampling test. However, there are areas where coliform concentration levels are still high due to the presence of a culvert.

Cimatu closed his report during the briefing by calling out local governments and resorts in the country to be aware of the importance of balancing ecology and the economy.

More than a thousand establishments and residences have been issued notices of violation of environmental laws.

Most of these ranged from encroachment on the easement zone at the beach front, construction of structures in forestlands and wetlands, and the failure to connect to the island's sewage networks.

As of last month, the DENR has already issued eviction notices against 161 illegal forest occupants after failing to justify the presence of its structures.

More than 900 establishments and residences were also asked for an explanation after these constructed structures on portions of some forestlands.

In the past, the DENR had allowed some establishments to use forestlands for tourism purposes. This is covered by a forest land use agreement or the Forest Land Agreement for Tourism (FLAG-T) .

Some DENR personnel are currently undergoing training on how to expedite the filing of cases against illegal occupants on the island's forest areas.

The workshop on case filing has been conducted since Monday in Iloilo City by the legal cluster of the DENR's National Task Force Boracay.

Land Reform

DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing revealed during yesterday's press briefing in Boracay that the government will adopt various modes of distributing lands to beneficiaries in the island.

Densing said different modes will be applied in lands suitable for agriculture and in business areas.

He did not give details as the Department of Agrarian Reform is coming out with an announcement on this.

President Duterte earlier announced he wants to declare the lands in Boracay under agrarian reform and distribute it to the residents.

Aklan Governor Joeben Miraflores described the closure of the island as a blessing in disguise and thanked the president for ordering its rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, Año said the Boracay task force is the biggest ever that government has created to address a problem.

The Interior secretary along with the secretary of the Tourism Department are the vice-chairs of the task force which is headed by Environment Secretary Cimatu.

Presently, its members include other departments: justice, public works, social welfare, labor and trade.

The Task Force has proposed the inclusion of more agencies in the government like the Department of Agrarian Reform, National Economic and Development Authority, and the Presidential Communication Operations Office for long-term goals.