Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu assured that major environmental problems such as water pollution and garbage are properly addressed before Boracay reopens to the public in October.

At the recent hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Cimatu said the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), which he heads, is now preparing the guidelines for the reopening of Boracay on October 26, or exactly six months after the resort island was ordered closed to tourists to pave the way for the much-needed rehabilitation.

Cimatu told lawmakers that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other government agencies involved in the rehabilitation efforts would make sure that all establishments will no longer be allowed to discharge untreated wastewater into the Boracay waters.

“My priority is to ensure that sewage will not spill over into the beachfront. I will have the sewage line along the beach condemned by September,” Cimatu said, referring to the sewer line owned by the Boracay Island Water Company which is located along the world-famous White Beach.

Cimatu recently issued DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2018-16 requiring hotels, resorts and similar establishments with 50 rooms and above to set up their own sewage treatment plant (STP), while those with 49 rooms and below could have a clustered, if not a separate STP.

The environment chief said the circular aims to address the water quality problems in Boracay, noting that STPs would ensure that the wastewater discharge from commercial establishments pass the “Class SB” standard to the existing drainage.

Class “SB” refers to waters that are fit for ecotourism or recreational activities, including swimming, bathing and diving.

Cimatu said the compliance of all establishments covered by the circular will “ensure water that is safe for human and environmental health, not only immediately after the island is reopened to the public, but for the longer term.”

Aside from fixing Boracay’s sewage and drainage systems, Cimatu said the rehabilitation efforts also include addressing garbage problems, road widening, clearing of illegal structures, and recovering five missing wetlands.

Cimatu said that establishments found to be non-compliant with environmental laws and regulations will not be allowed to operate when the island reopens on October 26.

Meanwhile, DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda disclosed that Senator Cynthia Villar has committed to donate shredders and molders for recyclable waste, and composters for biodegradables, to help solve Boracay’s solid waste problem.

Antiporda said the aim was to transport only residual waste—which should only be about 25 to 30 percent of the total waste generated—to the sanitary landfill in mainland Malay, Aklan.

Last April 26, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 475 placing Boracay’s three barangays – Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak – under a state of calamity and declaring the entire island closed to tourists for six months.

The closure was deemed necessary to rehabilitate the resort island described by the President as “cesspool” in order to “ensure the sustainability of the area and prevent further degradation of its rich ecosystem.” #