THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it expects to complete the rehabilitation of Boracay Island by the first half of 2022, after an overhaul of the island’s environmental and land use practices that required a full closure to visitors in 2018.

“To reverse the degradation of the island, we have to work on all issues that caused its deterioration. These include recovering the beach areas and cleaning its waters, regaining the wetlands which are the island’s ‘kidneys,’ restoring ecosystems, and clearing and paving the roads that are designated for public transport,” Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said in a statement.

The entire island will be declared a land reform area, he added.

The DENR will inspect the Lugutan and Tulubhan Bay areas, due to reports of illegal water discharge from households not yet connected to the island’s sewage network.

To address continuing water supply problems, the DENR’s Western Visayas office is working on a proposal to build a water tank that will supply potable water to a portion of Barangay Balabag, on the east coast of the island, and all of Barangay Yapak, which is to the north.

The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, which is in charge of the rehabilitation, is also evaluating a pumping station with a capacity of 800 cubic meters of raw water to be brought in from Malay, Aklan, on the Panay mainland, and supply raw water to the Angol Treatment Plant. It will also provide water to Barangay Manoc-Manoc in the south of the island, and to the rest of Balabag.

Demolition orders and notices to vacate were issued to owners in the remaining commercial and residential structures deemed too close to beach easements.

The enforcement of the “25+5-meter” easement rule is about 85% completed, and operations to clear beachfront are expected to finish by April.

Certificates of land ownership have distributed to the Ati indigenous people, the island’s original inhabitants.

By early next year, the DENR is expecting to complete its study on the carrying capacity of dive sites around the island.

“Aside from White Beach, Boracay is also known for its dive sites. This is the reason why we have to establish their carrying capacities — to regulate the number of divers at any given time,” Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group General Manager Natividad Y. Bernardino said. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson