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Groups call for real action to address problems in Boracay

/ 03:00 PM January 10, 2018

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan—No more press releases. We need action.

This was the challenge raised by the business and community leaders of Boracay Island to the heads of the tourism and environment departments regarding the island’s perennial problems.

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This came as the Boracay’s business and community leaders expressed exasperation on the repeated pronouncements of officials from the national government to address several problems hounding the tourist island.

Officials of the Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI) and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay made the challenge on Wednesday after Secretaries Wanda Tulfo-Teo of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced sweeping reforms and fast-tracked programs and projects to address the island’s unabated environmental and regulation problems.

Teo and Cimatu visited the island on Tuesday and conducted an aerial inspection before meeting with local officials, business and community leaders and reporters at the Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa. This was the first time that heads of the two departments jointly visited the island and met with stakeholders.

The cabinet officials admitted that solving the island’s various problems concern is up to both the national and local governments.

“We should have political will in order to save Boracay,” Cimatu said, adding that most of the problems of the 1,032-hectare island were related to the environment.

Cimatu said the major concerns that would be addressed by the DENR were structures illegally built on forestlands, problems on sewage and solid waste.

Owners of structures inside forestlands would be made to explain and DENR personnel who allowed the violation of land rules would be held responsible, he said.

He said Boracay’s residents also ballooned to around 50,000 due to migrants that include mostly workers of construction projects and employees of resorts and hotels.

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Tourist arrivals on the island last year reached another record-high 2,001,974. This was 16 percent higher than the 1,725,483 tourists recorded in 2016, according DOT records.

Cimatu said the island needs to be decongested but he did not elaborate on how this will be done.

He said proposals to regulate or limit tourists on the island needs “further study.”

Business and local officials had previously proposed the construction of housing for Boracay workers and employees at the Malay mainland to lessen the migration to the island.

Asked whether construction should be regulated, Mayor Ciceron Cawaling of Malay town, which includes the three villages of Boracay, said there was still a need to conduct an inventory on structures before a moratorium could be implemented. He said the inventory could be completed within 2018.

Teo said they would recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the issuance of an executive order creating and expanded multi-agency task force to address Boracay’s problems and ensure the implementation of plans and projects.

The executive order would revise and memorandum circular which created a multi-agency body to ensure the implementation of easement rules in the construction of structures on the island.

Aside from the DENR and DOT, the task force would also include the Departments of Justice and Public Works and Highways and the local government.

Municipal Councilor Nenette Aguirre-Graf, also BFI president, welcomed the visit of the two secretaries and their plans for the island.

But she urged the Cabinet officials to “go to the ground and feel, see and experience” the situation being faced by residents on a daily basis.

She cited the flooding due to lack of infrastructure, maintenance and improvement of the island roads and sidewalks and water supply for the island.

Elena Brugger of PCCI-Boracay said they are pushing for an implementing body to govern tourism activities on the island. /jpv

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TAGS: Aklan, Boracay, cleanup, DoT, environment, Teo, Tourism
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