New Boracay brings back memories of old
The clean and quiet beaches of Boracay that visitors saw on Monday brought back memories of the pristine island that it was before tourism came, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said on Tuesday.
“I spoke with some of the locals, who said this was how Boracay was before,” Puyat said, adding that many of the islanders welcomed the stricter regulations imposed by the government to save the island.
The government on Monday started a 10-day “dry run” for the reopening of Boracay to tourism, six months after it shut down the island for cleanup and rehabilitation.
Save for occasional rain, the first day of the dry run “went very well,” Puyat said.
The dry run is intended to test the interventions introduced by the government to check pollution and decay that decades of unbridled tourism has brought to the island.
Officials said visitors were greeted on Monday by clean beaches, clear waters, fresh air, and wide open spaces.
“This is the Boracay that locals have been longing to experience again after many years of unregulated tourism,” said Benny Antiporda, environment undersecretary for solid waste and local government affairs.
Starting Oct. 26, the government is imposing stricter measures on the island, banning and regulating a number of activities, from partying, drinking and dining on the beach to building sand castles.
The government will also control tourist traffic to the island, setting a limit of 19,000 visitors a day in keeping with its established “carrying capacity.”
Trash out in 24 hours
On Monday, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu announced that the task force overseeing Boracay’s rehabilitation would closely monitor garbage disposal on the island.
He said the designated garbage collector would be required to take out the trash within 24 hours.
Puyat said there was littering on the first day of the dry run, but added that local governments dealt with it “immediately.”
“Today, we have placed the garbage bins donated by Cebu Pacific around the beach area so there’s no more excuse for tourists not to throw their trash in its proper place,” she said.
“We are hoping that visitors [to] Boracay [will] also do their part to keep the island clean,” she added.
Antiporda said the trash bins were placed around the island in sets of three — for biodegradables, nonbiodegradables and recyclables — to teach islanders waste segregation.
The organization of business owners, Compliant Association of Boracay, will assume primary responsibility for the garbage bins, he said.
“We will strictly implement at-source segregation, and we will require the hauler to comply with what the law mandates, that is, there can be no collection without segregation,” he said.
Road widening delayed
Antiporda said, however, that the widening and paving of the streets would not be completed in time for the reopening on Oct. 26, as the job had been hampered by delays caused by “uncooperative” weather and islanders.
“We are certain to make the streets of Boracay walkable before the yearend,” Antiporda said.
The task force is still clearing the wetlands of illegal structures, Antiporda said.
He did not say how settlers’ huts remained to be dismantled.
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