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Officials rush to get Boracay in order following Duterte’s threat to close down resort island

Officials given six months to address environmental issues in world-famous resort

Gulf News

Manila: Government executives are hurrying to tidy up Boracay after getting a tongue-lashing from President Rodrigo Duterte over the poor environmental conditions in the popular Central Philippines’s resort island.

Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said he will bring in all bureaus and attached agencies of the agency, including the Environmental Management Bureau and the Forest Management Bureau, in addressing Boracay’s serious garbage and wastewater woes.

“This is a challenge again for the department,” Cimatu said.

In a speech he delivered in Cebu City on Monday during his meeting with local executives from Visayas and Mindanao, the President threatened to “permanently close” Boracay if the environment issues on the resort island are not addressed.

“The people running local governments in Boracay, you allowed things to happen, building structures that overlap the coastline,” he said.

A pristine island known only to a few locals until the late 1970s, Boracay has become a top destination in Southeast Asia for Filipinos as well as international tourists. Those who had visited the destination would attest that its natural powdery white sand is among the best in the world as it absorbs heat and complements the clear waters.

But unrelenting and largely unregulated construction of structures that started during the mid-1980s and an ever-expanding island population continue to destroy the natural beauty of the destination.

Duterte wants authorities to address the island’s chronic problem on waste-disposal.

“I will charge officials with serious neglect of duty” if nothing is done about these concerns.

Duterte said that they allowed buildings to be constructed in Boracay without proper sewerage, therefore creating what he described as a “disaster.”

He also warned to charge them for “serious neglect of duty for making Boracay a cesspool,” while also threatening to permanently close the island if it is not tidied up in six months.

Duterte left the task of improving the environmental conditions in Boracay to Cimatu.

For his part, Tourism Undersecretary Ricky Alegre said that aside from the environment department, other agencies will also contribute in improving the state of Boracay.

“The Department of Tourism together with the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Social Welfare and Development will all take part and contribute in the effort to revive Boracay,” he said.

Cimatu’s spokesperson, DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Relations Jonas Leones said the environment chief has been closely monitoring the environmental issues in Boracay even before the president’s directive.

Cimatu had earlier ordered the local government of Malay, Aklan to stop the dumping of residual waste at the Materials Recovery Facility in the village of Manoc-Manoc following complaints of foul odour from the residents.

“The indigenous peoples are part of our development plan. Some of them have been abused through leases and payments to which they agreed to without realising the repercussions,” Leones said.

“We need a serious and honest-to-goodness crackdown on erring establishments that are contributing to water pollution in Boracay,” the former Armed Forces chief said.