The inter-agency task force led by Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu remains on track to complete the rehabilitation of Boracay by May next year despite the setback brought about by the island’s closure as a preemptive measure against COVID-19.

Cimatu said the one-year extension given to the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) was enough to achieve all its targets and lay the groundwork for a permanent government body that would manage the world famous resort island.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte recently issued Executive Order (EO) 115 extending the term of the Cimatu-chaired BIATF by one year to May 2021. The task force was originally set to end on May 8, 2020, or two years after it was created under EO 53.

“The new EO gives us another year and directs us to finish the rehabilitation of Boracay,” Cimatu said during the BIATF Principals’ Meeting held in Boracay on June 11. “We aim to do that as we propose a bill in Congress that would create a permanent management group for the island.”

The environment chief was referring to the proposed legislative measure creating the Boracay Island Development Authority or BIDA, an independent body that would oversee implementation of sustainable development activities on the island and ensure the continuity of BIATF’s accomplishments.

“We want to preserve the all the good things that resulted from rehabilitation of Boracay and which brought it back to its rightful place as one of the best islands in the world,” Cimatu said.

In the meantime, Cimatu said the task force will focus on its priority rehabilitation activities for completion before May 2021, including the enforcement of easement laws to clear the beachfront and roads of obstructions. As of June 8, the 25+5-meter beach easement is 69 percent cleared while the 12-meter road easement is 73 percent done.

The task force will also continue to enforce carrying capacity regulations in Boracay to ensure that only 6,405 tourists will enter the island per day once it reopens. Boracay, along with other tourism destinations in the country, has been closed to tourists since March with the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The island reopens on June 16, but only to residents of Western Visayas as the region shifts to a more relaxed modified general community quarantine.

To maintain the island’s good water quality, the Environmental Management Bureau will continue its regular environmental compliance monitoring for water quality and construct more sewage treatment plants (STPs).

Water quality of the beaches taken from the monitoring stations in the last six months shows it is within the standard limit of 100 most probable number per 100 milliliters ((mpn/ml). Readings range from less than one mpn/100 ml to 7.1 mpn/100ml.

Most commercial establishments have complied with the requirement to have their own STPs or to connect to the sewage line of their water service providers. However, residential areas need to install clusterized STPs.

Completion of road projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and drainage projects of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) are also primary concerns.

Only Phase 3 of the DPWH road project is yet to be started. Phase 1 is completed and Phase 2 is 70 percent finished. The TIEZA drainage project is 93 percent completed for Phases 1 and 2, and 47 percent for Phases 1A, 3, 4, and 5.

The BIATF will also push for the completion of wetland rehabilitation by its corporate “adoptors”—Energy Development Corp. for Wetland No. 2, Aboitiz and TIEZA for Wetland No. 4, Boracay Tubi System Inc. for Wetland No. 6, and JG Summit for Wetland No. 8.###