THE GOVERNMENT has charged nine Boracay establishments with illegally occupying protected forest land on the island, the Environment department said.

The violations involve rules laid down under the revised Forestry Code and the Philippine Water Code, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said at a virtual briefing late Wednesday.

“Appropriate cases have already been filed against them. This proves that the rule of law is paramount and law enforcement is crucial and negotiable,” he said in a statement issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The charges stem from inspections conducted over the past two months by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group.

Mr. Cimatu added that the island’s coliform water contamination levels, as measured via the most probable number per milliliter, fell to a new low of 6.8 last month, based on readings taken at New Coast Boracay, Movenpick, Steve’s Cliff, and Front Beach Grotto.

Mr. Cimatu was speaking at a Boracay briefing conducted jointly with local government units and the Department of Tourism (DoT).

Boracay is among the major tourist destinations now open to domestic travelers.

In another statement, the DoT announced Thursday a partnership with the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) to partly subsidize the cost of the COVID-19 RT-PCR test kits for domestic tourists.

At present, UP-PGH is offering its test kit for P1,800 each, which the DoT said was much lower than the ones sold by testing laboratory centers.

The DoT said that the test kit subsidy will be borne by its marketing arm, the Tourism Promotion Board.

According to the Boracay Interagency Task Force (BIATF), the DoT was given the lead role in implementing low-cost or free RT-PCR tests for Boracay-bound non-Aklan tourists; and secure at least 1,500 RT-PCR test kits for to implement expanded testing in the island.

The BIATF also tasked the DoT with facilitating the training of Aklan province and Malay municipality in case investigation, contact tracing, referrals and other COVID-19 related operations. — Angelica Y. Yang