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TF readies guidelines for Boracay reopening

The task force overseeing the rehabilitation of Boracay is now preparing the guidelines for the reopening of the island on Oct. 26.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu, head of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, assured that major environmental problems such as water pollution and garbage disposal are properly addressed before Boracay reopens to the public in October.

He pointed out that DENR and other government agencies involved in the rehabilitation efforts would make sure that all establishments will no longer be allowed to discharge untreated wastewater into Boracay waters.

“My priority is to ensure that sewage will not spill over into the beachfront. I will have the sewage line along the beach condemned by September,” Cimatu said, referring to the sewer line owned by the Boracay Island Water Co. which is located along the world-famous White Beach.

Cimatu has issued DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2018-16 requiring hotels, resorts, and similar establishments with 50 rooms and above to set up their own sewage treatment plants while those with 49 rooms and below could have a clustered, if not a separate STP.

He said the circular aims to address the water quality problems in Boracay, noting that STPs would ensure that the wastewater discharge from commercial establishments pass the “Class SB” standard to the existing drainage. Class “SB” refers to waters that are fit for ecotourism or recreational activities, including swimming, bathing, and diving.

Cimatu said the compliance of all establishments covered by the circular will “ensure water that is safe for human and environmental health, not only immediately after the island is reopened to the public, but for the longer term.”

Aside from fixing Boracay’s sewage and drainage systems, Cimatu said the rehabilitation efforts also include addressing garbage problems, road widening, clearing of illegal structures, and recovering five missing wetlands.

He said establishments found to be non-compliant with environmental laws and regulations will not be allowed to operate when the island reopens on Oct. 26.

President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 475 last April placing Boracay’s three barangays – Balabag, Manoc-Manoc, and Yapak – under a state of calamity and declaring the entire island closed to tourists for six months.The closure was deemed necessary to rehabilitate the resort island described by the President as “cesspool” in order to “ensure the sustainability of the area and prevent further degradation of its rich ecosystem.” (Ellalyn V. Ruiz)