RESIDENTS of Boracay Island, journalists and officials join the Aklan Day Salubungan on Oct 15, 2018, which marked the start of the 10-day dry run for the island’s re-opening on Oct 26. (Contributed photo)
SIX months into its massive rehabilitation, the world famous white-sand destination Boracay Island has been declared fit for swimming.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu, who also heads the Inter-Agency Task Force Boracay, made the announcement at the start of the 10-day dry run for the island’s re-opening on Oct 15, 2018.
The island will reopen to tourists on Oct 26.
Dubbed “Aklan Day Salubungan,” the program saw the attendance several heads of the different government agencies involved in Boracay’s rehabilitation efforts.
“We declare now that Boracay Island is no longer a cesspool but an island whose body of waters surrounding it has passed standards to be fit for swimming,” Cimatu said prior to the ceremonial opening of the island for swimming.
He added, “I’m guaranteeing you na napakalinis na ng tubig ng white beach. Today is indeed a beautiful day ... a historic and momentous day for today is the rebirth of Boracay Island from being dubbed as cesspool to its closure for island tourists and undergo massive rehabilitation and recovery efforts. We offer to you now a better Boracay.”
Cimatu said Boracay is now a sight to behold and that the entire island will become even grander in the near future.
The DENR chief said that the 10-day dry run in the island will enable them to check the status of environmental interventions they implemented since the island was ordered closed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The task force will check the water quality, among other concerns.
Cimatu said they have observed a visible improvement in water quality.
Tests done by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) revealed that the coliform level is now down to 18.1 most probable number per 100 milliliter (MPN/100mL). The safe standard is 100 MPN/100mL.
Cimatu said that it is a big improvement from a high of thousands and even millions in some areas of the island in previous months.
In February 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte called out Boracay Island for being a cesspool and threatened to close down the island.
The President made good of his pronouncement as the island was shut down to tourists on April 26 for a six-month rehabilitation.
Cimatu said they were witness to the uncertainty and confusion of residents, workers, and business owners when they started cleaning the island.
“Hindi nila alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa Boracay. But when I went there now, nakangiti na ang taga Boracay,” he added.
Cimatu said yesterday’s Salubungan was a recognition of the sacrifices that the people of Boracay went through in the last six months, especially the lack of work.
“Looking back, it was months of roller coaster of emotion that tested the limits of our patience. Thousands of man hours were invested by the stakeholders in the rehabilitation of Boracay and this continuous until today,” he said.
But Cimatu said their gains should not be a reason for them to relax and lower their guards.
“While much has been gained already, there’s a lot that remains to be done. And we still ask for your extended patience, support, and understanding,” he said, citing the sacrifices, support, and cooperation of Akeanons and Boracaynons, the different government agencies, the establishments and others from the private sectors.
“Let me emphasize that everything that we have done for Boracay is to bring back the world-renowned beauty as our legacy to the current and future generations to come.”
As Boracay will officially open on Oct. 26 to all tourists, Cimatu said they have discussed several restrictions.
For one, habal-habal or passenger motorcycles will be phased out and only electronic tricycles will be allowed.
“But the numbers e-trikes are not enough to replace the vehicles that would be phased out,” he added.
Cimatu announced that some 200 e-trikes will be donated to fill in the island’s transportation requirements.
“The drivers of the vehicles that would be phased would hopefully be given priority to drive these vehicles that would be phased out. Ayan ang kondisyon: dapat walang mawalan ng trabaho,” he added.
Cimatu cited the need to phase out the habal-habal since these contribute to pollution at the shoreline.
He added that they might adopt new routes for the transportation system of e-trikes.
By Oct. 26, “Dapat wala ng sasakyan sa tabi ng Boracay beach. Doon na sa Cagban (Jetty Terminal) na lang,” he added.
Boats will not be allowed to go near the beach front.
“Mayroon talaga silang area for sailing 100 meters from the shoreline. Only swimmers will be on the beach near the shoreline. Beyond 100 meters pwede ang jet ski,” Cimatu said.
But for now, jet skis will not be allowed. Cimatu said they might lift the ban on jet skis a week after the island’s re-opening.
He added they will also look into the solid waste management.
Garbage will be immediately shipped out of the island and will not stay for more than 24 hours.
“Isang araw lang, alis na ‘yung mga garbage,” he added.
Secretary Eduardo Año of the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Boracay is undeniably the Philippines’ prime tourist destination.
“But sadly, the desire to develop the island and incorporate modern and trendy amenities resulted in irresponsible transformations,” he said.
“The environmental damages were so alarming that no less than our President realized the need to address these pressing concerns and be considered as an utmost priority. Thus, the creation of Inter-Agency Task Force Boracay led by Sec. Cimatu.”
Año said the six-month closure of Boracay to tourist and recreational activities was implemented to pave way for the restoration and healing of the island.
They acknowledged that the decision was met with criticism, resistance, and doubts.
“Overwhelming odds and challenges loomed but noble quest to save our valuable treasure fueled our aspiration to overcome these obstacles,” he added.
After the concerned efforts of partner government agencies, non-governmental organizations, the local government units, concerned citizens, and the local residents of Boracay, Año said the island is now back to a better state, incorporating sustainable governance, business stability and continuous peace and order.
“Achieving all of these is only the start, we need to guarantee the continuity of our efforts to prevent the recurrence of previous issues,” he added.
To assure sustainable governance, Cimatu said strict monitoring on the implementation of the law should be observed.
In line with the presidential directive on environmental protection, Cimatu disclosed that the DILG Boracay Secretariat was reconstituted into a Beach Tourism Monitoring Team to institutionalize the monitoring of local and environmental ordinances that will not cover only Boracay Island but the entire country as well.
“Business stability is also secured by making sure that all ventures are compliant with mandatory requirements,” he added.
Cimatu said the Boracay Inspection Committee has inspected a total of 2,699 establishments.
From the initial 80 compliant establishments, 1,152 are now compliant to local regulations and already secured Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) permits.
The implementation of these process-oriented programs is seen to help stakeholders in properly complying with their deficiencies.
The meticulous process will ensure that only law abiding entities will be allowed to operate in the island.
“Lastly, peace and order will be safeguarded to the permanent implementation of the Metro Boracay Police Task Force,” Cimatu said.
These proactive measures, he added, will guarantee that Boracay will be protected from criminal and illegal acts that may happen.
The Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) could expect a world-class Boracay what with the numerous infrastructure works in Boracay.
DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said this is the vision of President Duterte.
“Almost half a billion pesos worth of infrastructures was poured in for the road network of Boracay. Next year, malaki po ang pondo na iba-budget for the road network of Boracay,” he added.
Villar said continuous improvement of road network should be expected.
Yesterday’s Aklan Day also saw the presence of Undersecretary Arturo Boncato of the Department of Tourism, Secretary Al Cusi of the Department of Energy, and Secretary Arturo Tugade of the Department of Transportation.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat was also in the island yesterday but Boncato read her message during the program.
“Our concerted efforts have proven once again that change is indeed possible with strong political will and eagerness to converge for the love of country. The reopening of Boracay is not the culmination but just a beginning of a new journey on sustainable tourism,” he said.
Boncato said the lessons learned in this undertaking are crucial, as these shall apply to other parts of the country.
Tugade and Cusi both cited Duterte’s resolve in shutting down Boracay Island.
They both claimed that Duterte’s political will has spelled difference into reviving Boracay Island.