MANILA - The Department of Tourism is pitching for the closure of Boracay island during the Habagat season to demolish establishments that encroach the easement zone area, Secretary Wanda Teo said Monday.
A mandatory salvage zone of 25 meters plus 5 meters is measured between buildings and the shore from the high tide mark, and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu is dismantling the establishments that cross this boundary, said Teo.
Tour operators pleaded with the government agencies concerned, however, to pursue demolition works "portion by portion," but this would take longer than the 6 months mandated by President Rodrigo Duterte for completion, she said.
"Yung iba diyan, kumabit sa aming drainage system. Kailangang bungkalin namin 'yung kalsada, so di namin magagawa 'yan pag hindi sinara. Sa amin, para mabilis ang trabaho, we have to temporarily close. Ang (suggestion) namin is during Habagat," Teo told radio DZMM.
"Sa ngayon, we will be giving them time, but when comes Habagat season, usually pag Habagat season naman wala masyadong nagpupunta sa Boracay," she said, referring to the time of the year, from July to October, when the country is usually beset with torrential rains.
The government has initiated an unprecedented cleanup in Boracay this month after Duterte cited the island's sewage problems, calling it a "cesspool" and threatening to shut it down.
Some 850 establishments have been served show-cause orders by the inter-agency council for easement violations and not connecting to the sewerage treatment plant, said Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre.
Only 18 percent of the about 500 accredited hotel and resorts in Boracay were connected to the sewer system, said Alegre.
Teo said the 6-month period for the cleanup which Duterte wants is not workable because there are tourists who have scheduled their trip ahead of time.
She also asks the President to declare a state of calamity in the holiday island, so that national officials can step in and "move fast."