Tourists crowd the beachfront as they wait for the sunset in Boracay Island, in this April 24, 2018 photo. Environment secretary Roy Cimatu says the non-tourist population in the world-renowned destination breaches the limit. AP

BORACAY accommodated thousands of tourists a day but it was actually the non-tourists who were crowding the world-renowned island, according to Environment secretary Roy Cimatu.

The number of non-tourists exceeded the limit, and now the government aims to “decongest the non-tourists,” Cimatu told reporters on Wednesday.

Boracay can accommodate only 54,945 people a day – 35,730 non-tourists and 19,215 tourists – but its current population stands at 70,781, a commissioned study showed.

The population of non-tourists has breached the limit, Cimatu said.

Stay-in workers numbered around 22,395, migrant workers were at 13,605 while residents were at 16,000 – some 52,000 – he said.

“Now this is the objective of the (Boracay Inter-Agency) Task Force: to look for a way to decongest the non-tourists,” Cimatu said.

For one, the multiagency body planned building a dormitory for Boracay stay-in workers in mainland Aklan province, he said.

Meanwhile the government – through the Task Force – was also bent on limiting the number of tourists coming to Boracay at only 19,215 a day when the island opens on Oct. 26, said Cimatu.

The daily tourist average, according to Cimatu, was “within the carrying capacity.”

From 6,000 a day, the average number of visitors peaked during February and the Holy Week, reaching up to 7,000, he said. “If we could just maintain this one, we are OK.”

The figures Cimatu gave were different from what Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told a press briefing in Malacañang on the same day.

The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force – comprising the Environment, Interior and Local Government, and Tourism departments – presented the latest on the island’s rehabilitation during a Cabinet meeting at the Palace on Tuesday.

“The most important is that they assess that the carrying capacity for Boracay is 19,215 per day including 6,405 tourist arrivals per day,” Roque told Palace reporters the following day.

Citing conclusions made by the Task Force during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Roque said there was “an excess in the existing population of tourists on the island, excess in existing hotels and available rooms, and excess in solid waste generated.”

He also noted the insufficient wastewater treatment facilities in the island.

During a Senate hearing on the Environment department’s budget Wednesday, Cimatu said the Task Force was requiring owners of hotels and resorts with 50 rooms and above to build their own sewage treatment plant.

Boracay has 15 million liters of wastewater that needed treatment a day but the island can clean only 11.5 million liters per day.

In addition, the Task Force also recommended using wetlands to filter out waste from soil and water, maximizing open spaces for vegetation, minimizing point source pollution and coastal erosion, and establishing permanent monitoring facilities in designated areas, among others. (Report from Philippine News Agency/PN)

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