Tourists are back on the island paradise, and they are marveling at what the government has done during the time Boracay was closed to tourists on April 26 this year by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte after he said, “It had become a cesspool.”
On Oct. 26, we flew to the island via Caticlan airport (also undergoing a major rehab itself) to see for ourselves what the government has done since the island’s closure.
The trip to the hotel we were booked in wasn’t that easy yet as the road leading to it was still undergoing repairs, but the driver of the hotel van we took was optimistic. He said that by December, the repair would be completed and the road would be passable already.
Also, some hotels (157) were given permits to reopen for the soft opening and more as they meet the requirements set by the Task Force Boracay, particularly on the issues of environment and sanitation.
We met DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, whose agency along with others, was tasked with rebuilding or rehabilitating the sorry state of the roads and the drainage system of the island, lunchtime at the restaurant in Discovery Shores.
He said, that the work (at least of his agency) was 70 percent done and would be complete by the end of the year.
Villar added that the weather condition contributed to the slowing down of the rehabilitation efforts on the island, but additional manpower from the 15 District Engineering Offices and Regional Office of DPWH in Western Visayas worked double time to open one lane of 4.12-kilometer Boracay Circumferential Road from Cagban Port, passing Rotunda to Laketown to Elizalde property, including the missing gap at the backdoor of Bolabog Beach in Barangay Balabag.
“I’d like to commend our hardworking crew and officials in DPWH Region VI who were able to make the entire Boracay Circumferential Road passable to the public. They completed significant improvements on existing highway and opened the missing gap just in time for Boracay Island’s opening,” he said.
The improved Boracay Circumferential Road, Villar said, has two lines of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) drainage pipes that can hold larger flow of stormwater and prevent flooding in the island. Additionally, he said the road also features wider sidewalk with paving blocks on several sections especially crossing alleys leading to the beachfront for the safety of pedestrians, complete with planting strips of anahaw tree and ground cover for aesthetic and environmental appeal.
For the remaining works, the Department said it would complete the paving on second lane of Boracay Circumferential Road this month to serve more locals and tourists going around the scenic island of Boracay.
After lunch with the DPWH Secretary, we toured the island and saw some very significant changes, especially along the shoreline. The beach from Station 3 to 1 was amazingly clean, the chairs and tables of some restaurants that used to occupy the beachfront making walking along the beach like walking in a crowded sidewalk of Rizal and CM Recto avenues in Manila were nowhere to be seen. There were no water sports activities then yet, although, I heard they would be allowed eventually but regulated.
I remember the first time I came to the island in 1981. It was pristine and really paradisiacal! There were no resorts or hotels. We stayed in a nipa hut owned by a resident, and we had to walk a mile to have our meals of native Boracaynon dishes, mostly seafood. The boys in our group bought beer cooled in ice-cooler at a sari-sari store near the carinderia.
These were taken over by big businesses when they start invading the island in the mid-80s making it literally a time bomb ready to explode anytime, and it almost did, and thanks to the government for deciding its closure in April.
During the soft opening we spotted several movie/TV personalities on the island including Eric Santos with his manager Ericson Raymunod, Rufa Mae Quinto, and Cristine Reyes with her daughter.
Boracay gets P150M for environmental rehab
The national government has earmarked P150 million to support Boracay Island’s continuing environmental restoration and to safeguard the world-class tourist destination’s coastal and marine ecosystem, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said over the weekend.
“The fresh funding is a go, even if the government temporarily runs on a reenacted budget next year,” said Atienza, the senior deputy minority leader.
Atienza, also one-time Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, said the new money is meant to establish the Boracay Island Critical Habitat; put into operation the Boracay Water Quality Management Area; oversee landfills and materials recovery facilities; monitor water and air quality around the island; and support research on environmental pollution.
“The designated Boracay Island Critical Habitat covers some 750 hectares of forestland and coastal marine areas,” Atienza said.
A critical habitat is a specific geographic area that contains features essential to the conservation of endangered or threatened species.
“Boracay’s endemic species that require special protection and management include flying foxes and marine turtles,” Atienza said.
He said at least three species of flying foxes inhabit Boracay: the giant golden-crowned flying fox, the giant fruit bat and the small flying fox.
“The demarcated critical habitat is mainly in Barangays Balabag and Yapak, where the flying foxes are concentrated,” Atienza said.
Balabag and Yapak are two of Boracay’s only three barangays, the third being Manoc-Manoc. The island forms part of the Municipality of Malay in Aklan province.
“In the case of marine turtles, they may not produce offspring if their natural habitat gets disturbed by too many people around,” Atienza said.
The lawmaker also stressed the need to renew Boracay’s severely eroded coral cover.
Atienza, former three-term mayor of Manila, previously backed the six-month shutdown and rehabilitation of Boracay. He even urged President Duterte to extend the environmental recovery plan to include Laguna Lake and Manila Bay.
Boracay was reopened last Oct. 26, but an inter-agency task force has restricted to 19,215 the total number of tourists allowed to stay on the island at any given time.
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