ONLY 38 establishments out of the 1,070 inspected in Boracay Island are fully compliant with government regulations.
This was the disclosure of Interior Undersecretary Epimaco V. Densing III in a recent presentation at the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at its office in Makati. He said there were actually 1,552 establishments on the popular island resort, but “482 were not inspected because they were closed,” as of May 23.
The inspections of Boracay establishments are still ongoing, he added, and started in the week of April 26, the first day of closure of the island. President Duterte had ordered the island closed for six months after the Department of Tourism (DOT) presented a video during a Cabinet meeting, which included a drainage pipe spewing black muck and effluents into Bulabog beach, where kite surfing and other wind-sea activities are conducted. This moved Duterte to dub Boracay a “cesspool.”
Densing said the inspections were done by interagency teams composed of representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), local government units, the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Internal Revenue, among others.
The inspection teams will check if each establishment has the necessary permits to operate, such as a fire-inspection certificate, business permit, environmental- clearance certificate and sewer-line connection certificate, among others.
As this developed, the Boracay Island Water Co. Inc. (BIWC) will beef up its sewerage system on the world-famous tourist destination, and ensure the main white beach is free of pollutants.
In an interview with the BusinessMirror, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) Assistant Chief Operating Officer Joy Bulauitan said, “We are putting new pipes to decongest those [sewerage] pipes, which we intend to finish in four months.” This is to help ease sewerage flows along the 1990s-era sewerage pipe built by Tieza’s predecessor, the Philippine Tourism Authority. Tieza, the infrastructure arm of the DOT, owns 20 percent of the Ayala-led BIWC.
These new pipes are part of the BIWC’s plan to upgrade and expand the sewer network along the Balabag Main Road, said Acs SC. Aldaba, business operations head of the water firm, in a separate interview. The Balabag Sewer Network Rehabilitation Project will be built at a cost of “P40 million,” and is designed to “accommodate higher flows coming from the beachfront.”
The project was recently presented to Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.
“This is a faster and more feasible alternative to relocating the sewer network, which may affect more establishments and require acquisition of rights-of-way that may take a longer time to complete beyond the closure period,” Aldaba said.
Meanwhile, Bulauitan clarified that what Cimatu discovered last week were “43 illegal pipes throwing wastewater on the [main white] beach. They aren’t connected to our sewerage pipes that’s why they throw their effluents directly to the beach.”
She said the DENR will be tracing which establishments own those illegal pipes. The discovery by Cimatu of the illegal pipes prompted him to comment that it may take more than six months to rehabilitate Boracay Island. Soon after, he said the popular resort island could be reopened in four months. President Duterte has ordered the closure of Boracay for six months from April 26, to implement the government’s rehabilitation program.
Citing a report by Tieza’s resident scientist, Bulauitan said the main white beach has already eroded by some 18 meters, which is why the sewer pipes seem quite near to the shoreline.
BIWC, the main water service provider on resort island, said in a news statement, it continued to remain compliant with the stringent pollution control standards of the DENR.