By Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporter
THE tourist island of Boracay is set to reopen on Oct. 26, but its full rehabilitation will be completed in two years, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Eduardo M. Año said.
“The opening on Oct. 26 is just a first phase of the opening because we believe the rehabilitation of the Boracay will take at least two years,” Mr. Año told the House Committee on Natural Resources in a hearing on Boracay, Friday.
“But at least the six months (have) produced something that will actually restore Boracay into its pristine state,” he also said, adding the government envisions Boracay to be a top tourist destination.
The President in early 2018 labeled the island a “cesspool,” which led to its six-month shutdown for rehabilitation purposes beginning in April.
The rehabilitation was spearheaded jointly by the DILG, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Department of Tourism.
For his part, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu reported the island, with its estimated carrying capacity of 55,000, was overpopulated by about 15,000, attributed to the number of migrant workers.
He noted that these workers resided in dormitories constructed in wetlands.
“After the closure, they left for their respective provinces, leaving behind their dormitories constructed in the wetland,” Mr. Cimatu said.
As a preventive measure, Mr. Cimatu said it had been agreed upon that once the island reopens, establishments will be required to provide their workers the necessary accommodation.
“We have a program with the establishment owners for them to take care of the accommodation of their workers,” the Environment secretary said.
DENR undersecretary Sherwin S. Rigor said among the policy guidelines approved during a Cabinet meeting was the regulation of tourist arrivals.
The Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau of the DENR found only 19,200 tourists can be allowed to stay in the island per day, or 6,405 arrivals per day under the assumption that the tourists will stay for an average of three days.
Further, consistent with the pronouncements of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Mr. Rigor said “no casino and…gambling shall be allowed in the island.”