To fulfill its mandate to reverse the degradation of the world-famous island in Aklan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is determined to finish the work of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) before its term ends in June 2022.
DENR Secretary and BIATF chair Roy A. Cimatu said the term extension given to the task force should be enough to tie up all the loose ends of the island’s rehabilitation.
“As we all know, the 2022 polls is just around the corner, thus, we must ensure that we have the proper mechanisms in place so that our hard work and efforts would not turn to naught,” Cimatu said during the BIATF meeting in Boracay Island on Friday, Oct. 22.
“We hope that what we leave behind for Boracay would be those that are worthy to be sustained or built upon by those succeeding us,” he added.
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.
During the meeting with BIATF officials, Cimatu reported that water quality in the beaches of Boracay has significantly improved since the rehabilitation of the island destination started in 2018.
Water samples in 2018 showed that fecal coliform level was at 900 most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/100 ml).
Cimatu said that fecal coliform levels from 21 stations are now down to 45 MPN/100 ml on average.
Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation and Management Group (BIARMG) General Manager Natividad Bernardino said the June 2022 target is a “realistic goal for its total completion,” citing that the 25+5 beach easement is now 83 percent complete.
Bernardino added that 282 of the 339 structures including commercial, residential, and other establishments encroaching on the 25+5-meter beach easement have been demolished. Only a few remaining houses are left for demolition.
The 34 affected fisherfolk residents were given cash assistance amounting to close to Php 1 million by the municipal government of Malay, provincial government of Aklan and the Department of Social Welfare and Development
“We have to do it. Hindi pwedeng hindi. Gawin natin,” Cimatu said, referring to the removal of illegally-built structures on the island.
After the meeting, Cimatu conducted beach forest tree-planting of around 50 agojo seedlings commonly known as native pine trees along the White Beach at Station 3.
“We are doing this as a nature-based solution to address the issue that the 25+5 easement has shrunk a bit because of soil erosion,” Cimatu explained. “I am glad that other beach resorts have also committed to participate by planting Agojo and other appropriate tree species.”
The whole stretch of the white beach is targeted to be included in the tree-planting activity.
Among the lost wetlands, Wetland No. 9 is almost cleared of illegal settlers except for one remaining house.
Wetland No. 6, adopted by Boracay Tubi System Inc. and which has been previously cleared, will be fenced to prevent possible encroachment.
For the enforcement of the 12-meter road right of way for the widening and improvement of the Boracay Circumferential Road, 86 percent of establishments or 1,057 of 1,230 total structures that have been demolished are now compliant with the 12-meter road easement.
These consist of commercial, residential, and a combination of both and institutional establishments.
By the second quarter of 2022, the task force is targeting 94 percent compliance or an additional 142 establishments demolished.
The demolition of the remaining structures is expected by the end of 2020 when Phase 4 of the road improvement project would have been completed.
For her part, Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the COVID-19 vaccination of the island’s residents and tourism workers is expected to reach 100 percent by the end of October 2021 with the arrival of 35,100 doses of Pfizer vaccine on Oct. 21.
Almost 92 percent of the tourism workers including tricycle drivers, souvenir shop personnel, and massage therapists have received their first dose or 11,779 of 12,809 workers while 77.87 percent or 19,039 of 24,451 residents have received their first dose.