Task force ready to fix problems as dry run puts govt interventions in Boracay to the test—Cimatu

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has assured that the government was prepared to address all problems that might occur during the 11-day dry run for the reopening of the world famous Boracay Island.

Cimatu said the government policies and interventions intended to protect Boracay from unsustainable tourism activities will be put to the test during the dry run, which started on Monday and will last until October 25.

“The point of the dry run is to ensure that everything will run smoothly during the soft opening on October 26,” said Cimatu, who heads the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) in charge of Boracay’s rehabilitation.

While the dry run got off to a good start, Cimatu said the BIATF would know on the third day whether the government interventions really work.

“We will only see the effects and results of all these interventions on the third day after tourist arrivals,” he said.

Cimatu said the BIATF would “not allow the rehabilitation efforts done in the past six months go to waste.”

He particularly cited the “environmental interventions” that has made Boracay “no longer a cesspool,” which was how President Rodrigo Duterte described it before the island was ordered closed to tourists in April.

“As you may have observed, there has been not only a visible improvement in water quality. Tests done by the EMB (Environmental Management Bureau) revealed that the coliform level is now down to 18.1 MPN/100 mL from thousands or even millions in some areas of the island’s waters prior to closing,” Cimatu said.

The standard coliform level is 100 most probable number per 100 milliliters of sample.

Cimatu said the EMB, a line bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, will continue to check the quality of water discharged from sewage treatment plants (STPs) on the island.

He said that solid waste disposal will also be looked into in order to make sure Boracay’s garbage are “immediately moved out and not remain on the island for more than 24 hours.”

Cimatu insisted that only establishments compliant with the requirements of the DENR, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Tourism are allowed to reopen and operate.

The DENR, he said, will only issue environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to businesses with own STPs or connected to a provider, and those not within forestlands or wetlands.

Cimatu said that tourist arrival of 6,405 persons per day will be strictly followed.

Only a total of 1,000 rooms from accredited hotels will be available for booking at any time during the day, Cimatu said.

“The BIATF is firm on 100% compliance. If you do not comply, you do not operate," Cimatu stressed.

He added: More than all these, a change in the behavior of the people—the locals and the tourists—will bring real change to Boracay.” ### 

Cimatu: Strict compliance with guidelines required even during Boracay dry run

Government agencies in charge of the rehabilitation of Boracay will closely monitor compliance and effectiveness of the guidelines laid down to protect the resort island from unsustainable tourism practices during its dry run or partial reopening from October 15 to 25.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, head of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), said the 11-day dry run would allow government to test all systems put in place during the six months Boracay underwent much-needed rest and cleanup.

He therefore appealed for cooperation and understanding from all stakeholders and local tourists, who will be among the firsts to experience a reinvigorated Boracay.

“We will be monitoring a lot of things, from managing the entrance, exit, and stay of the tourists, to enforcing rule of law on establishments that have been found to be non-compliant to laws and regulations,” Cimatu said.

The former military chief said the government would strictly enforce the “no compliance, no operation” policy for establishments not only during the dry run but beyond Boracay’s formal reopening on October 26.

“We will not hesitate to close hotels and other establishments that would operate without clearance from the BIATF,” Cimatu said.

He also warned tourists who are planning to visit the island to make sure they book their accommodations with compliant hotels and similar establishments, a complete list of which will be released by the Department of Tourism.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is deploying at least 30 environmental enforcers to check on Boracay’s water quality, solid waste management, drainage and sewage systems, and occupation on forest areas and wetlands.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police have committed to help maintain peace and order on the island during the dry run leading to the October 26 reopening.

“We are trying to correct the mistakes of the past, and we have succeeded in finding a solution to cleaning the environment. We do not want to backslide on what we have started,” Cimatu said.

The BIATF recently 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.

During the dry run, the BIATF will be implementing a traffic scheme amid ongoing road works on the island. This includes ferrying visitors directly to the Tambisaan port or pontoons set up at different boat stations, and impounding private and public vehicles operating without permit. ### 

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