As Boracay is all set for its much-awaited reopening on Friday, government agencies in charge of its rehabilitation are hoping the improved environmental condition of the world-famous resort island will be sustained for the long term.
“It is our fervent hope that the people of Boracay have learned their lesson well and that they are now ready to lead efforts to ensure the sustainability of Boracay as a world-class ecotourism destination,” said Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, head of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF).
Boracay will reopen exactly six months after it was closed to tourists to pave the way for much-needed rehabilitation from serious environmental damage, particularly the concerns that its once-crystal-clear waters have been tainted by sewage and garbage.
Cimatu said that Boracay’s environmental sustainability would depend largely on how its residents, stakeholders and tourists will adhere to the guidelines laid down by the BIATF to protect the island from unsustainable tourism practices.
The environment chief strongly believes that more than the significant improvements and innovations done in Boracay, “a change in the behavior of the people—both the locals and tourists—will bring real change to the island.”
Cimatu expressed hope the BIATF has “successfully laid the foundations for a sustainable Boracay” during the six months the island was under rehabilitation.
Last October 15, Cimatu announced that Boracay waters are already fit for swimming based on the standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Prior to reopening, the BIATF has approved a set of guidelines to ensure Boracay’s environment will be sustained and protected from the expected massive influx of local and foreign tourists.
The guidelines include a regulation on tourist arrivals and number of persons allowed to stay in Boracay, in accordance with the island’s carrying capacity.
A study conducted by the DENR’s Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau and the University of the Philippines-Los Baños revealed that the island’s daily carrying capacity is 54,945—19,215 tourists and 35,730 non-tourists, which refer to residents, migrants and stay-in workers.
Meanwhile, DENR Undersecretary Sherwin Rigor said that among the highlights of the reopening will be the unveiling of the so-called “Boracay icon” and inauguration of the reconstructed main road.
Rigor said the “reopening ceremony” will take place at Cagban Jetty Port in Barangay Manoc-manoc.
“Cagban jetty port is the main gateway to Boracay. It is only fitting that the ceremonies marking the reopening will take place here, as a symbol of the island welcoming visitors once again to enjoy its natural beauty,” he said.
A prominent marker in Cagban port constitutes of the word “Boracay” with a 50-foot vertical garden and backdrop of the “Boracay icon,” a phrase coined by the task force to refer to an image that the island is well known for.
The marker, Rigor said, would be a “fitting symbol showcasing the ‘new’ Boracay that has been made possible through the collaborative efforts of the government and the island’s stakeholders.”
According to the DENR official, the sheer size of the Boracay icon makes it visible as a welcome sign to ferry passengers approaching the mainland.
Another highlight of the opening will be the inauguration of the rehabilitated main road with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to be led by Secretary Mark Villar of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The 4.1-km road stretches from the Cagban port to the Elizalde property in Station 1.
Environmental warriors will also take their oaths as part of the “Kaligkasan” community multipliers group during the ceremony.
The Kaligkasan, a combination of the words “kaligtasan” (safety) and “kalikasan” (nature), will augment government personnel in enforcing environmental laws and regulations on the island.
Along with the island’s rehabilitation is the improvement of Cagban port’s facilities. Among these is the renovation of the jetty itself, as well as the construction of a rotunda where vehicles can drop off passengers purchasing tickets or leaving the island.
A walkway leading to the main road has also been constructed as a separate path for people entering the island. ###