HOW long Boracay Island will be shut down will depend on the pace of its rehabilitation and cleanup, a Tourism official said Sunday.
“The recommendation is six months, but that could be less than six months with the help of the residents,” Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre said in Filipino during an interview on radio dzBB.
The Environment, Local Government and Tourism departments have recommended to the President that the popular tourist destination be closed from six months to a year beginning April 26, to allow for the demolition of structures that have been erected on no-build zones, the construction of a comprehensive sewage and water treatment facility for the entire island, and a massive cleanup.
Alegre told dzBB that the biggest problem was the discharge of untreated sewage onto the beach and surrounding waters.
Samples of the water in the area, he added, yielded readings of 18,000 mpn (most probable number, which is used to determine the concentration of microorganisms in the water) when the allowable level is only 400 mpn.
“The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said they would cut the water connection because if the distributor releases 1 million cubic meters of water, that’s the amount of water you have to treat,” he said in Filipino. “That’s why we can’t have any tourists. The resorts can open but there will be no water supply.”
He said the task force in charge of the cleanup did not believe the 17,000 workers on the island would be displaced, as the establishments there could help in the government’s rehabilitation efforts.
“They will need help in cleaning their establishments and Boracay,” he added.
Also on Sunday, detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima raised concern over a government plan to convert Boracay into a gambling haven after the approval of the development of casinos on the island.
“I have serious doubts that the real intention to close down Boracay Island was to rehabilitate it but instead to accommodate business interests by paving the way for the establishment of more casino operations in the island,” De Lima said.
“While we clean up the island and penalize violators, let us be wary of the social and moral impact of such development projects. The presence of more casinos in the island would create more problems than solutions in the communities,” she added.
Based on reports, Macau-based casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. and its local partner, AB Leisure Exponent Inc., are expected to build a $500-million integrated casino resort in Boracay next year.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Chairperson Andrea Domingo has also reportedly approved the application of gaming operations of Resorts World Manila at the Savoy Hotel at the Megaworld Corp’s Boracay Newcoast development.
In addition to these two big casino resorts, she also disclosed that two other casino junket firms with smaller operations located at Movenpick and Crown Regency resorts in Boracay.