By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. - @inquirerdotnet
ILOILO CITY — An inter-agency task force will present on Thursday, March 15, a comprehensive master plan for Boracay Island as part of efforts to crack down on violations of environmental laws in the country’s prime tourist destination.
Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre, spokesperson of the Department of Tourism, said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año will also meet and discuss the masterplan with architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr.
Alegre said the inter-agency task force plans to adopt and expand the proposed masterplan for the island designed by Palafox.
The comprehensive plan would include addressing environmental problems and development activities aimed at decongesting the 1,032-hectare island which last year attracted more than two million tourists.
The Malay municipal government in Aklan which governs Boracay Island last year signed a memorandum of agreement with Palafox for the formulation of an updated master development plan.
Various development plans have been designed by various agencies for the island, but these have not been comprehensively implemented resulting in unregulated development and worsening environmental and other problems.
Alegre said the plan would cover not only the six months that President Rodrigo Duterte has given as a deadline to address the island’s problems but also strategic measures to ensure sustainable tourism in Boracay.
The plan will be presented in a multisectoral workshop in Boracay in mid-April to be organized by the Department of Tourism.
Alegre said the inter-agency task force would still recommend to the President the declaration of a state of calamity in Boracay which would be followed by the shutdown of tourism activities there.
The DOT and Department of the Interior and Local Government is eyeing a 60-day shutdown of the island from June 1 to July 31 to enable the demolition of illegal structures and other activities.
But the Malay government and business operators have appealed to the national government to pursue the crackdown on violations without closing down to the island so as not to severely affect workers and business operators.
Last week, the Akan Provincial Board unanimously passed a resolution appealing to the President to “allow the uninterrupted economic and tourism activities” in Boracay while the national and local governments implement measures to aimed at addressing the environmental and development programs of the island.
In its resolution, the board said ongoing efforts could be continuously done effectively even if the island would remain open to tourism.
The Malay government is continuing efforts to remove illegal structures and close down those illegally discharging waste water.
On March 9 Mayor Ciceron Cawaling ordered the closure of the Lishui Restaurant on the island’s long beach after an inspection team found the establishment discharging kitchen waste in a holding tank buried near the shoreline. The restaurant had also been operating without a sanitary permit.
Last week, demolition teams mobilized by the local government also removed structures at Puka Beach, previously considered the remaining unpopulated beach on the island.