The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) has proposed a one-year term extension pending the creation of a permanent regulatory body that will oversee the island's sustainable development and balanced growth.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary and BIATF chair Roy A. Cimatu said the term extension will allow the task force to complete all its projects that have been stalled by the pandemic.

A resolution signed by the BIATF has been submitted to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for his approval to extend the term of the task force for another year.

The task force, co-chaired by the Department of Tourism and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, was created on May 8, 2018 under Executive Order (EO) No. 53.

The task force's term was supposed to end in 2020, two years after its creation.

However, President Duterte issued EO No. 115 on May 11, 2020, extending the term of the BIATF until May 8, 2021.

"We have been hoping that all the good work we have done in Boracay would be continued and sustained by a more permanent body," Cimatu said during the BIATF's meeting in Boracay on Thursday, March 18.

"We have accomplished much since this body was created by our President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on May 8, 2018 with the mission of ensuring the rehabilitation and ecological sustainability of Boracay Island after its degeneration into a cesspool as a result of a few decades of runaway and haphazard development," he added.

Cimatu said the BIATF Bill on the creation of the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA) is currently pending in the House of Representatives.

The BIATF has also submitted its position paper explaining its preference for its proposed bill over seven other versions submitted to the legislative chamber.

Cimatu said the BIDA, as a regulatory agency, should take over the current functions of the task force "because we believe that the limited carrying capacity of Boracay does not leave space for further development that envisions enterprise and business that may adversely impact the island and its ecosystems."

"We are urging the House of Representatives to pass the BIATF Bill," he said.
Cimatu pointed out that the task force's main concern is "to ensure the sustained protection of the island and its environment so that we may leave it in a pristine state for the next generation and those after them."

"Let this be our legacy," he emphasized.

In its position paper, the BIATF said that the government-owned and controlled corporation's proprietary functions will distract the BIDA from its primary purpose, which is to safeguard the island’s ecological integrity.

It further noted that the substitute bill is also investment-driven and will allow casinos and reclamation, which are "contrary to the President’s vision."

Moreover, the BIATF position paper pointed out that the bill "substantially changes the powers and functions of the BIDA."

It cited the discrepancy in the Declaration of Policy and substantive provisions and the bill’s encroachment on constitutionally-mandated policy on local autonomy.

"The BIATF’s proposed bill underwent several negotiations and consultations among BIATF member-agencies and non-member agencies, and this group of diverse opinions unanimously concluded that a regulatory body similar to the BIATF would best serve the needs of Boracay Island and its people," the position paper read.

Cimatu maintained his stand "to ensure that profit will never again lord over environmental protection." ###