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Boracay may reopen with as little as 30% of firms compliant

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Boracay
Tourists along the Boracay beachfront, April 8, 2018. -- REUTERS

THE government hopes up to 50% of businesses will be operational by the time the resort island of Boracay reopens as scheduled on Oct. 26, but may have to settle for 30%.

Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for Operations Epimaco V. Densing said on Monday that 50% represents the high end of the target.

“The target is between 30% to 50% based on the DENR’s (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) study on the island’s carrying capacity study. Around 30 to 50% (establishments) may be opened,” he said at a Senate hearing on the Boracay environmental cleanup.

Four months into the island’s closure, Mr. Densing said some establishments remain noncompliant in terms of obtaining permits from local and national governments as well as the directive to connect to the sewer lines of water concessionaires or to install their own sewage treatment plants (STPs).

According to DILG’s count, there were about 2,384 establishments on Boracay at the time of closure in April. Mr. Densing said only 71 out of 440 hotels, inns, and restaurants have complete business requirements as of Monday. Meanwhile, only 21 out of 162 establishments have sewage treatment plants based on DENR data presented during the hearing.

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In an interview with reporters, Mr. Densing clarified that the government prefers 100% compliance but may have to settle for as little as 30% to ensure the improvement in water quality is sustained.

“If you are not connected with the sewer line, if you don’t have an STP, you are not allowed to operate. If you don’t have a mayor’s permit or a building permit, you are not allowed to operate,” he said.

“If 30% (of establishments) are connected to the sewer line or only 30% have STPs, then we’ll have to open it at 30%… It is not in the interest of everybody to keep Boracay closed. But if you are not following the law to make sure that the water quality that comes out of the island is (class) SB level, then we’ll have to do with the 30%,” he added.

Wastewater management issues remained the most contentious in the rehabilitation efforts with water concessionaires saying that several establishments continue to refuse to connect with their sewer lines.

Officials from the Boracay Foundation, Inc., the largest business group on the island, said its members are put off by high wastewater treatment fees.

Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, urged the government to provide discounts or incentives that would help establishments comply with DENR standards.

She also disagreed with the 30% target for the reopening, saying she prefers 50%.

“I don’t think it’s is a very good target, it’s too low… Maybe it’s a good target that 50% will open on Oct. 26,” she told reporters after the hearing. — Camille A. Aguinaldo

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