Boracay closure period can be less than 6 months

MANILA The closure period of Boracay Island can be much shorter than the six months slated by the government, according to authorities handling the top tourist spot's rehabilitation.

"We can have a soft opening of Boracay in three to four months," declared Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III in a press briefing on Thursday.

Densing, however, said this is possible only if all sectors concerned would help clean up and restore the famous Philippine destination.

MalacaAang had announced the island's closure to the public starting on April 26 to hasten the place's cleanup and rehabilitation.

Water pollution, encroachment in forestland, and loss of habitats are among the environmental problems hounding Boracay amid its growing population and increasing economic activities, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The DENR, DILG, and the Department of Tourism lead the inter-agency task force handling the Boracay rehabilitation.

In an earlier interview with the Philippine News Agency , Eligio Ildefonso, Executive Director of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) under the DENR, described the six-month cleanup of Boracay as "doable".

Ildefonso said everyone's cooperation is key to a quick cleanup of Boracay.

"NSWMC personnel were able to clear a dumpsite there in less than a month, so more can be done if everyone in Boracay will help clean up and avoid worsening pollution in that island," he said.

The DENR has reported deploying to the island teams to serve show cause orders to 842 Boracay establishments for violating environmental laws.

The DOT has acknowledged the impending closure's impact on tourism in Boracay, likening it to a bitter pill to swallow.

"It's a temporary setback only," said Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre, who expects the rehabilitation to result in a better Boracay.

As the DENR began assessing the conditions in Boracay Island, the agency aims to set a so-called carrying capacity (carcap) for Boracay to help balance the island's development and environmental preservation.

The carcap will serve as a guide in determining the extent of allowable development and tourist influx in Boracay, to avoid further environmental degradation, DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones said.

"It will also help determine the sustainability of rehabilitation that the government is doing in Boracay," Leones added.

Experts said carcap, a possible growth management tool for achieving desired conditions, indicates the extent of what an area can support

without depleting resources there for present and future generations.

An area's carcap changes over time due to various factors like population increase-driven pressures, they noted.

They warned that an area's carcap shrinks as the environment there degrades.

Palawan province's Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) is among the carcap-guided tourist spots in the country and tagged as one of "Earth's new seven wonders of nature".

"To conserve the outstanding universal values of PPUR, a carrying capacity of 900 visitors a day has been set and a no permit, no entry policy is strictly enforced," Palawan authorities said. "This is to ensure the thousands of bats and swiftlets and other life forms are not disturbed beyond their tolerable levels that will cause them to

abandon the underground river for more suitable conditions. PPUR is being conserved for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations."

Source: Philippine News Agency