Despite P5-B monthly losses, House panel backs Boracay closure
The House of Representatives tourism committee has thrown its support behind the government’s plans to temporarily close down the island of Boracay, citing wastewater and law enforcement problems without addressing the proposed construction of casino resorts.
Committee Report No. 673 sought the “temporary closure of Boracay Island to immediately eradicate or drastically reduce the dumping of wastewater into the beach,” without recommending a definite period.
In a press briefing, committee chair Leyte 4th Dist. Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez acknowledged that the tourist destination’s closure would result in P5 billion in losses monthly.
“This is definitely a hefty sum, and both business establishments and residents will suffer the consequences,” Torres-Gomez said. “However, on balance, the committee put more weight on the long-term viability and sustainability of tourism in Boracay, versus the short-term economic collateral damage.”
“Temporary closure may be likened to a bitter pill that needs to be taken in order to cure the symptoms and causes of a nagging disease,” she said.
The 12-page report arose from four hearings held from September 2017 to January 2018 on House Resolution No. 1087, which Samar 1st Dist. Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento filed to initiate the inquiry.
Torres-Gomez, however, said the proposal to build two casino resorts in Boracay—involving Macau’s Galaxy Entertainment Group and Malaysia’s Genting Group—was not taken up in the committee.
She noted that once the cleanup plan is put into place, “that will probably have to take a backseat.”
“That should come after our problems have been addressed. I don’t think businesses would risk building now,” she said.
To clean up the island, the committee report proposed the “indefinite closure” of all residences and business establishment found to have violated wastewater regulations.
It stated the government should make an inventory of all pipes, trace all sources of wastewater inflow, and crack down on all illegal sewerage connections and unwarranted permits issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and local government units.
At the same time, it recommended that President Duterte issue an executive order mandating all businesses subscribed to the Boracay Island Water Company to avail of both water and sewerage services.
It also proposed the infusion of funds for the maintenance and upgrade of the BIWC’s sewerage projects and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority’s drainage projects.
As for the law enforcement issues, the report recommended that the Department of the Interior and Local Government direct the municipal government of Malay, Aklan, to provide solid and wastewater management facilities and explore resource recycling technologies.
The committee also said the Malay government should render a full account of the environmental fees collected from tourists.
It also sought the strict enforcement by the DENR of the “25+5-meter easement rule,” which concerns the encroachment of the beachfront and the coastline, as well as rules on the use of forest land.
The committee recommended that the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Boracay be updated and fully implemented, and that a study be commissioned to investigate the island tourism, ecological and urban planning capacities.
It also recommended that informal settlers in the island be moved to Barangay Caticlan in Panay Island.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.