The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which heads the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), has expressed hope that the municipal government of Malay will sustain the gains of the Boracay rehabilitation as the task force’s term ends next month.

“We are all excited to complete the rehabilitation of Boracay. But we cannot allow anyone to undo—immediately or otherwise—what we have accomplished, or to unlawfully stand in the way to the completion of our mission,” said DENR Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna during the BIATF Principals’ Meeting in Boracay Island on April 29.

Sampulna said that the dissolution of the task force does not mean the end of the rehabilitation of the world-famous resort island.

He added that the various agencies and local government units, whether independent of each other or in partnership with one another, can continue the unfinished projects according to their respective priorities under the new administration.

The BIATF, which is chaired by the DENR with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) as vice chair and the Department of Tourism (DOT) as co-vice chair was created by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte through Executive Order (EO) 53 on May 8, 2018.

On Sept. 14, 2021, the BIATF’s term was extended for the second time until June 30, 2022, through EO 147.

Sampulna pointed out that the general progress of the BIATF is “nothing short of remarkable, if not awesome, particularly in the reduction of fecal coliform counts and the rehabilitation of wetlands.”

“Our comfort, by then, is that we have done our part as members of this task force, and that, hopefully, we will be in a position to do more, or that our successors will be able to protect and build on our gains,” he said.

During the meeting on April 29, Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation and Management Group (BIARMG) General Manager Martin Jose V. Despi bared that Boracay’s beach is Class SB-compliant or safe for swimming, as it is within the standard fecal coliform level of 100 most probable number per 100 milliliters (100 MPN/100 mL).

In April 2022, the lowest fecal coliform level was at less than 1.8 MPN/100mL in three of the 21 sampling stations around the island.

Of the nine wetlands in Boracay, ongoing wetland rehabilitation efforts include improvement of water quality, construction of linear park and amphitheater in Wetland 4 (adopted by Aboitiz Property Ventures), establishment of an arboretum in Wetland 3 (adopted by San Miguel Corporation), construction of a boardwalk and perimeter fencing in Wetland 6 (adopted by Boracay Tubi Systems, Inc.), perimeter fencing of unoccupied portions of Wetland 8 (adopted by JG Summit, Inc.) and clearing of illegal settlers and construction of a 230-meter concrete fence in Wetland 9.

All these activities are expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2022.

Wetland 2 has been turned over by its adopter, Energy Development Corporation, to the DENR in February, while Wetland 1 in Bgy. Yapak, and Wetlands 5 and 9 in Bgy. Manoc-manoc, do not have their adopters.

Moreover, the Bokashi ball intervention initiated by the BIARMG is expected to improve water quality in all the wetlands.

With the influx of tourists on the island, DENR-Region 6 is updating its carrying capacity study and is expected to be finished by June 15, 2022.

As of April 2022, 155,885 foreign and local tourists arrived on the island, which is higher than the 116,645 tourists during the same period in 2018.

Sampulna said there is a need for an “honest-to-goodness” study on the carrying capacity and suggested to engage with a third party and the DENR-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau.

On the enforcement of the 25+5-meter beach easement rule, 89 percent or 301 out of 339 establishments encroaching on the 25+5 meter beach easement have been demolished and are compliant as of April 15, 2022.

A hundred percent compliance is targeted by the end of June 2022.

On the enforcement of the 12-meter road right-of-way for widening and improvement of the Boracay Circumferential Road, 88 percent of establishments or 1,078 out of 1,230 total structures have been demolished and have complied with the 12-meter road easement.

The BIARMG targets a 94 percent total compliance rate or an additional 152 establishments to be demolished by the second quarter of 2022.

As to solid waste management, a memorandum of agreement between DENR-EMB and LGU Malay was signed for the release of P50 million to support the collection and transport of solid waste on the island.

Other accomplishments include the completion of 80 housing units for the relocation of Boracay residents in Barangay Dumlog in Malay, Aklan and the vaccination of 102 percent of tourism workers. ###