MANILA – Boracay may have a “soft opening” on the first week of September, according to the interagency task force overseeing the island’s rehabilitation.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), a member of the task force, gave such estimate during the second Senate public hearing on Boracay’s six-month closure yesterday.
“That’s just barely a month before the (October) deadline. I assume they can do it, and we will monitor their compliance with this commitment. This came from them,” said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
The government closed Boracay in April 26. Tourism activities ceased. Its reopening after five months would pave the way for the reemployment of workers in the island displaced by the closure, said Drilon.
“The reforms that will be instituted will not be finished by that time but at least the minimum requirements that meet environmental standards will be in place,” he added.
Meanwhile, Drilon also pushed for a single authority to manage Boracay.
He filed Senate Bill 1765 seeking to create the “Boracay Island Council” tasked to “take over the management, development, regulation, protection, and maintenance” of the top tourist destination, including its coastal resources and marine biodiversity.
“There is no management of this jewel of an island. Boracay contributes so much to our development as a country, particularly in the field of tourism, and yet there is not one body in charge of Boracay,” the Ilonggo solon lamented.
On Tuesday, Environment secretary Roy Cimatu said businesses in Boracay may already accept bookings for Oct. 27 onwards.
Boracay’s closure will not be extended beyond Oct. 26, Cimatu said during a press conference in the island.
However, Cimatu said only establishments compliant with government and environmental regulations shall be allowed to operate.
“Establishments not compliant and still face cases – it’s a big ‘no’ for them,” he said.
Of the 2,269 establishments on the island, only 95 were compliant, said DILG officer-in-charge Eduardo Año.
“Marami silang aayusin bago sila makapag-continue ng business nila (They have to fix many things before they could resume operating),” said Año.
Cimatu likewise said more than 50 percent of the rehabilitation work is already done.
“We have already identified everything. Implementation na lang ito. It is only a matter of time,” he told members of the media, adding that various government agencies have been on track in meeting the different key result areas that are part of the task force’s mandate.
Cimatu said water quality on the island’s White Beach is already improving based on the regular monitoring of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB).
The task force, he added, is focused on removing illegal settlers from wetlands to improve water quality in Barangay Bulabog.
“Habang andyan sila, ang coliform level andyan. Kung mawala ang tao dyan, lilinis na ‘yan (While the illegal settlers are there, the coliform level will not drop. Once the settlers are relocated, the area will become clean),” said Cimatu, adding that the removal of some illegal structures in wetland numbers 3 and 6 has begun.
The DENR and the local government of Malay town in Aklan province has identified a relocation site for those who will be displaced.
“It will be in a 10-hectare property in mainland Malay,” Cimatu said.
While the relocation site has been set, families who will be displaced will be sheltered first at the temporary evacuation center of Malay’s local government in the mainland, he said.
Cimatu said food and other assistance shall be provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development for those who will be transferred to evacuation centers.
Come July, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will also begin constructing a five-kilometer main road, said DPWH undersecretary Roberto Bernardo.
The road construction shall be done parallel to the construction of the drainage along the main road.
Clearing operations along the main road for the road widening project is ongoing, according to the DPWH.
The DPWH has also begun building the 452-meter road in Bulabog that links the circumferential road from Cagban to Mt. Luho. The road will serve as an alternative route to decongest traffic along the main road. (With a report from the Philippine News Agency/PN)