The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) continues to make steady progress in its effort to rehabilitate the world-famous resort island as it enters the final six months prior to its scheduled dissolution.

Natividad Bernardino, general manager of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group, said the rehabilitation is right on schedule for completion by May 2020 in time for the expiration of BIATF.

“We are on track and if everything goes on smoothly, all our targets for the two-year rehabilitation program will be met by the time the Task Force is dissolved,” Bernardino said.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu welcomed the good news and acknowledged the efforts of the task force and all those who are doing their share in the rehabilitation.

“I am thankful and grateful for the all success we have gained no matter how big or small in the continuing rehabilitation of Boracay,” Cimatu said.

On May 8, 2018, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) No. 53 creating the BIATF and designating Secretary Roy A. Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as its chairman. The EO provides that the BIATF shall be deemed dissolved two years after its creation.

“Boracay is truly an amazing turnaround story and we, the members of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, the Boracay Inter-Agency Management Rehabilitation Group (BIAMRG), and all stakeholders, are relentlessly working to secure the gains we have achieved,” Cimatu said.

“All of us want to bring back the beauty, cleanliness, peace and order in Boracay,” the environment chief added.

In her presentation before the BIATF alternate members last Tuesday in Boracay, Bernardino reported that 67 percent of the total 339 commercial and residential structures along the beachfront are already compliant with the 25+5 meter shoreline easement rule.

Bernardino also reported that the island’s maximum carrying capacity of 19,215 tourists at any given time was strictly observed and that no exceedance had been reported. She said the average number of tourist arrivals for the period October 2018 to November 2019 was at 5,639 tourists per day.

According to Bernardino, the main road is expected to be finished by yearend and other road sections by April or May 2020.

Bernardino said the infrastructure works are seen as one of the obstacles that may delay the rehabilitation’s completion. Another, she said, is overpopulation, particularly the big number of workers who stay in boarding houses.

“The biggest problem we still have right now and even after the two-year rehabilitation is decongesting the island,” Bernardino said, adding that overpopulation should be addressed with strategic interventions.

Meanwhile, Cimatu noted that the creation of a Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA) to permanently manage the island is being proposed in Congress.

Under the proposal, BIDA will be an attached agency of the DENR since environmental sustainability will be its main concern.

“In the meantime, we may request President Duterte to extend EO 53,” Cimatu said.

Boracay was closed to tourists on April 26, 2018 to give way to a six-month rehabilitation. It reopened on October 26, 2018 with stricter regulations on the use of its famous White Beach and the entry of tourists. #