Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo and Environment chief Roy Cimatu disclosed that a draft Executive Order (EO) on the creation of a task force on Boracay would be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte “to address once and for all” the serious problems besetting the popular tourist destination.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have partnered in conducting an ocular inspection on the island, which is fast-losing the balance between environmental conservation and tourism development.

According to the two officials, issues of congestion, water pollution, and overdevelopment have become alarming. To address this, they agreed on the creation of a task force to oversee all issues Boracay is facing.

On pollution, the two said that a drainage project should be done in bulk rather than having it implemented in stages.

According to the DOT, there are at least two million international tourists flocking the island annually. In addition, the 10.32-square-kilometer island paradise has an aggregate population of 34,000 from three barangays, namely, Yapak, Bulabog, and Manok-Manok, belonging to the municipality of Malay, Aklan.

Teo has blamed the lack of proper sewerage system, as well as a number of business establishments that tapped and dispose of their waste through the rainwater drainage system all the way to the sea.

Teo said with joint cooperation among DOT, DENR, and the municipal government of Malay, Cimatu would soon relay what they had discussed to President Duterte.

“Cimatu will present to the President in the next couple of meetings,” she said.

Following the aerial survey, the two department heads presided a multi-sectoral meeting with Boracay’s tourism stakeholders.

One major problem that prompted the meeting was the alarming recurrence of flooding in most parts of the Boracay tourist hub, particularly the flash flooding that occurred during typhoon Urduja last December 18.

Cimatu disclosed he had called the attention of Malay Mayor Ciceron Cawaling regarding the worsening garbage problem. Along with Cawaling, Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores raised the need for more fundings.

“We appeal to both Secretaries to adopt Boracay,” Miraflores urged the Cabinet officials.

Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Authority (TIEZA) for its part pledged to pour in PHP400 million more on Boracay’s ongoing drainage project, valued at PHP716 million. As per DOT, its Phase II is aimed at alleviating heavy flooding in the area.

‘VERY ENCOURAGING’

In an interview with reporters, Miraflores said the inspection had brought a “very encouraging” development to their desire and efforts to preserve the beauty of Boracay island.

“We will now be amending the previous memorandum circular that created a body that will address one specific issue in the past, the 25+5 on the easement,” he said.

The move is expected to add other agencies in the picture.

As per the governor, having a consolidated body to cover all problems in Boracay, such as land issues, an overwhelming number of infrastructure, congestion, and offshore pollution is one step closer to a viable solution.

“With the commitment of the two Secretaries to resolve these issues once and for all, we’re very happy with the outcome of the meeting,” Miraflores said. (PNA)