Manila, Philippines — Environment Secretary, Roy Cimatu recommended on Thursday the closure of Boracay for a maximum of one year to allow the rehabilitation and recovery of the tourist island from its environmental woes.
The announcement came weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte himself blasted local officials on the island for allegedly allowing the degradation of the beautiful tourist destination into a “cesspool.”
The Senate also launched a probe into Boracay’s environmental problems and discovered serious breaches of local environmental and building laws.
The panel that conducted the probe — led by Sen. Cynthia Villar, whose family corporation has real estate projects on Boracay that she says meets environmental standards, stopped short of recommending a total closure of businesses there. The panel favors shutting down only those businesses found non-compliant with regulations.
In making the announcement, Cimatu said that the closure would pave the way for the implementation of measures that would restore Boracay as a prime tourist destination.
The announcement was released on the same day of a Reuters report saying Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group and its partner Philippine corporation Leisure and Resorts World Corp. are applying for a big-ticket casino project on the island.
“We look forward to working with GEG in bringing a world class resort to the island-paradise of Boracay. If the project materializes as envisaged, it’s going to be a game changer in the Philippine resort and tourism landscape,” LRWC Vice President for Legal and Corporate Secretary Katrina Nepomuceno said in a in a BusinessWorld report on the potential project in December 2017.
Sewage and road system to be improved
“For public health, public interest, and general welfare, I recommend to the president the closure of Boracay island as tourist destination for a maximum of one year effective one month after the declaration,” Cimatu said during a meeting with Department of Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo.
During the closure period, the sewage system of the island would be improved, according to Cimatu.
The needed solid waste management facilities would also be installed, he said, after it was discovered that the island generated solid waste of between 90 to 115 tons per day despite the local government’s hauling capacity of only 30 tons per day.
Cimatu also said that many illegally-built structures would be removed, and based on his estimates, 900 of these are in forestlands and wetlands while more than 100 are within easement areas.
The roads on the island would also be widened, Cimatu said, with road space pegged at six meters from the centerline on both sides.
The public transport system would also be rationalized, Cimatu announced.
The announcement is sure to affect the thousands of locals who rely on the island’s tourism for livelihood.
However, the problem became so severe that Duterte himself blasted officials on national television for the uncollected garbage and untreated sewage flowing into the sea.
The president has yet to decide on how the government will deal with Boracay and earlier said he would declare a state of calamity there. A declaration, usually done in the wake of typhoons or other natural calamities, would make emergency funds available.