By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
The interagency task force leading the rehabilitation of Boracay Island may ask President Rodrigo Duterte to extend its two-year mandate beyond May next year while bills on the creation of a development authority for the resort island in Aklan province remain pending in Congress.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, in a statement, said the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) might ask for an extension of Executive Order No. 53 which created the task force on May 8, 2018.
The task force is led by Cimatu as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and cochaired by Secretaries Eduardo Año of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Bernadette Romulo-Puyat of the Department of Tourism.
It is also composed of several other agencies and local governments with jurisdiction over the island in Malay town, Aklan.
The task force led the closure of the island to tourists for six months last year, from April 26 to Oct. 25, and in implementing laws and regulations especially those related to the environment.
Cimatu noted that the creation of the proposed Boracay Island Development Authority, a body that would be tasked to permanently manage the island, is pending in Congress.
Sen. Franklin Drilon has refiled a bill in the Senate for the creation of a Boracay Development Authority while Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. has authored a related bill for a Boracay Island Council in the House of Representatives.
Many Boracay residents and business owners have been clamoring for the creation of a semiautonomous body that will remove the 1,032-hectare island from the sole jurisdiction of local government units to ensure Boracay’s sustainability.
The body under the pending bills will have a similar composition with the BIATF and will have supervisory, management and regulatory powers.
Several key projects, including the completion of the island’s sewage system, will be finished after the mandate of the BIATF ends in May.
The rehabilitation of key road sections is set to be completed by the middle of next year.
Natividad Bernardino, general manager of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group, reported during a meeting of the task force that the rehabilitation was “on trackâ€ and their two-year targets would be met “if everything goes on smoothly.”
Bernardino, in the DENR statement, said 67 percent of 339 commercial and residential structures along the beachfront were already compliant with the “25 + 5-meter” shoreline easement rule.
She said there had also been strict observance with the the island’s maximum carrying capacity of 19,215 tourists at any given time.
Average daily tourist arrivals from October last year to November this year was 5,639, according to Bernardino’s report.But Bernardino said congestion remained a concern.
The island’s population of around 56,000 has grown significantly due to, among others, the relocation of construction and other workers on the island with their families.