Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has lauded President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for calling Congress to pass a measure creating the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA) to sustain gains from the rehabilitation of the world-famous resort island.

Cimatu thanked the President for endorsing the BIDA bill, saying it would help ensure the timely and full passage of the measure being pushed by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“We express our sincerest gratitude to the President for his endorsement of the BIDA bill,” Cimatu said. “This is the opportune time to pass a law creating a permanent agency to sustain the gains achieved by the BIATF, which term has been extended for only one year or until April 2021.”

President Duterte recently issued Executive Order (EO) 115 extending the term of the BIATF by one year. The task force was originally set to end on May 8, 2020, or two years after it was created in 2018 under EO 53.

“It is the tacit duty of the task force to ensure that Boracay does not backslide and slip to a state of environmental degradation especially with all the hard work, cooperation and concern shown by all stakeholders,” Cimatu said.

In his recently concluded State of the Nation Address, President Duterte called Congress to pass the BIDA measure in his desire to sustain what he called “remarkable emergence of the island back to its former glory.”

"For the rest of my term, I hope to see concerted efforts in protecting the environment. The rehabilitation of Boracay island showcased our reserve to safeguard the environment," the Chief Executive said.

Last June 11, the BIATF issued a resolution approving the draft BIDA bill and endorsing it to Congress.

The BIATF, in its resolution, said the creation of BIDA aims to promote and accelerate the sustainable development and balanced growth of Boracay Island, “consistent with the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance on protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment.”

Under the draft bill prepared by BIATF, BIDA is mandated to formulate policies, plans, programs and projects for the rehabilitation, preservation and enhancement of Boracay Island.

The proposed framework is focused on developing Boracay as a self-sustaining commercial, financial, investment and tourism center to generate employment opportunities, attract local and foreign tourists and promote productive investments.

In doing so, BIDA has to take into account the protection and preservation of the natural resources and biodiversity of the island paradise.

“The BIATF version of the bill envisions the BIDA as a regulatory body to ensure the environmental sustainability of the island and where the local government unit will retain its taxing authority,” said DENR Director and Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group general manager Natividad Bernardino.

Bernardino, however, clarified that BIDA will not be a government-owned and controlled corporation akin to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

The 11-member BIDA Board will be chaired by the DENR Secretary, while the secretaries of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Tourism will serve as vice-chairs.

The members include the secretaries of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Health and the Department of Justice; governor of Aklan province; mayor of the municipality of Malay; two private sector representatives from Malay town; and the BIDA general manager to be appointed by the President. #