Cimatu: Much achieved, but more needs to be done to rehabilitate Boracay

Despite visible improvements, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said a lot more needs to be done to completely rehabilitate and ensure the sustainability of the world-famous Boracay Island.

Cimatu said that while the resort island is “no longer a cesspool,” there is no reason for government and other stakeholders to be complacent.

“This is not the time for us to relax and lower our guards,” Cimatu said on the first day of the 11-day dry run for the much-awaited reopening of Boracay later this month.

“While much has been gained already, still a lot remains to be done and we still ask for your extended patience, support and understanding,” he added.

Cimatu, who heads the inter-agency task force in charge of Boracay’s rehabilitation, cited the ongoing road and drainage improvement projects, which were delayed due to successive typhoons.

“We lost about 30 to 40 days of work but we will be able to compensate for this and finish the drainage system,” Cimatu explained.

The environment chief said that all projects will continue even after Boracay’s soft opening slated for October 26.

“Rehabilitation will continue after October 26. We are just in Phase 1,” he stressed.

Cimatu led other officials of government agencies involved in the rehabilitation of Boracay in welcoming Aklanons who were the first guests in the newly- rehabilitated island which he described as a “better Boracay”.

Boracay, he said, was no longer a cesspool and tourists can once again enjoy its pristine waters.

He gladly announced that Boracay waters are already fit for swimming based on the standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“We offer to you now a better Boracay,” Cimatu said. “Boracay beaches are now a sight to behold and the entire island will even be grander in the near future.”

Famous for its powdery white sand, pristine blue waters and amazing sunsets, Boracay has been named several times as one of the best beaches in the world.

But on April 26, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Presidential Proclamation No. 475 ordering the closure of Boracay to tourists for six months to pave the way for its rehabilitation from environmental damage caused by overdevelopment. ### 

Task force ready to fix problems as dry run puts govt interventions in Boracay to the test—Cimatu

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has assured that the government was prepared to address all problems that might occur during the 11-day dry run for the reopening of the world famous Boracay Island.

Cimatu said the government policies and interventions intended to protect Boracay from unsustainable tourism activities will be put to the test during the dry run, which started on Monday and will last until October 25.

“The point of the dry run is to ensure that everything will run smoothly during the soft opening on October 26,” said Cimatu, who heads the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) in charge of Boracay’s rehabilitation.

While the dry run got off to a good start, Cimatu said the BIATF would know on the third day whether the government interventions really work.

“We will only see the effects and results of all these interventions on the third day after tourist arrivals,” he said.

Cimatu said the BIATF would “not allow the rehabilitation efforts done in the past six months go to waste.”

He particularly cited the “environmental interventions” that has made Boracay “no longer a cesspool,” which was how President Rodrigo Duterte described it before the island was ordered closed to tourists in April.

“As you may have observed, there has been not only a visible improvement in water quality. Tests done by the EMB (Environmental Management Bureau) revealed that the coliform level is now down to 18.1 MPN/100 mL from thousands or even millions in some areas of the island’s waters prior to closing,” Cimatu said.

The standard coliform level is 100 most probable number per 100 milliliters of sample.

Cimatu said the EMB, a line bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, will continue to check the quality of water discharged from sewage treatment plants (STPs) on the island.

He said that solid waste disposal will also be looked into in order to make sure Boracay’s garbage are “immediately moved out and not remain on the island for more than 24 hours.”

Cimatu insisted that only establishments compliant with the requirements of the DENR, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Tourism are allowed to reopen and operate.

The DENR, he said, will only issue environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to businesses with own STPs or connected to a provider, and those not within forestlands or wetlands.

Cimatu said that tourist arrival of 6,405 persons per day will be strictly followed.

Only a total of 1,000 rooms from accredited hotels will be available for booking at any time during the day, Cimatu said.

“The BIATF is firm on 100% compliance. If you do not comply, you do not operate," Cimatu stressed.

He added: More than all these, a change in the behavior of the people—the locals and the tourists—will bring real change to Boracay.” ### 

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