Months of hard work and tireless efforts paid off for the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) as the island once labeled as a “cesspool” bounced back as one of the best islands in the world this year.

“We couldn’t be more proud of what Boracay has become after one and a half years of rehabilitation,” said Environment Secretary and BIATF chair Roy A. Cimatu.

The Conde Nast Traveller, which is recognized as one of the most distinguished and trusted authorities on lifestyle travel, named Boracay as “the best island in Asia” and one of the 30 best islands in the world for 2019.

Boracay did not make it to the prestigious list last year due to ongoing rehabilitation, after being crowned as the world’s best island for two consecutive years in 2016 and 2017.

This year’s rundown of the best islands in the world was broken down into six parts: Asia, Australia and the South Pacific, Caribbean and the Atlantic, Europe, North America, and the United States.

Cimatu said the government’s efforts to restore Boracay are bearing fruit with the recognition from a global authority like Conde Nast Traveler.

According to Cimatu, the Boracay rehabilitation is now more than 80 percent complete. The BIATF has until May 2020 to finish the rehabilitation, or two years after it was created by President Rodrigo RoaDuterte under Executive Order No. 53 he issued last year.

After one and a half years of rehabilitation, Cimatu proudly announced that the water quality in Boracay‘s world-famous White Beach has greatly improved with coliform count now in the range of less than 1 most probable number per 100 milliliters (mpn/100ml) to 11.9 mpn/100ml which is way below the standard quality of 100 mpn/100ml for recreational waters.

Cimatu said the rehabilitation efforts moved into high gear this year, focusing on strict implementation of environmental laws and regulations.

The task force, he said, is about to complete the demolition of all structures violating the 25+5-meter beach easement rule after tearing down the 10 remaining illegal structures along Bulabog Beach on November 10.

Also last month, the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group led by its general manager Natividad Bernardino served the notice to vacate to the owner of a commercial viewpoint located at a forestland on Mt. Luho for violating Presidential Decree 705 of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

The viewpoint was used for pictorials or photo sessions and was reportedly operated by a Chinese national without the necessary permits.

The BIATF noted that Phase 1 of the rehabilitation of 5 out of 9 wetlands on the island is 100 percent complete. These wetlands were adopted by private firms, namely, Energy Development Corp., San Miguel Corp., Aboitiz Group, BoracayTubi Systems Inc., and JG Summit.

The task force reported that almost 80 percent of all commercial and residential establishments have already complied with the 12-meter road easement rule along the Circumferential Road.

At an allowable 6,405 persons per day, the tourist arrival in Boracay remains within the allowable carrying capacity of 19,215 a day.

So far, 1.74 million tourists have arrived in Boracay this year. This number is 152 percent higher than last year, with Chinese, Koreans and Taiwanese as the top three foreign tourists.

The Department of Agrarian Reform also spearheaded the planning and consultation meetings for the distribution of Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) to indigenous families in Wetland No. 6. The agency’s support service also facilitated a housing program for these CLOA beneficiaries.

Drainage improvement also continued as part of the project of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority or TIEZA.

Some 1,300 meters of pipe have been laid out of around 2,000 meters for Phase 2 of the Boracay Diversion Road.

With only less than six months left before BIATF’s dissolution, Cimatu said the task force will work double time to finish its task.

To continue the gains of the Boracay rehabilitation especially on environmental sustainability, Cimatu had earlier proposed to Congress the creation of the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). ###-