BORACAY - Members of the inter-agency task force on rehabilitation here have agreed that this beach destination will be reopened for tourism and other economic activities as planned come October 26, but only for establishments compliant with government regulations.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said out of 296 establishments on the island, only 90 have complied with government regulations.
"Those establishments who are not compliant and face similar cases, that is a big "no" for them," Cimatu said in a press briefing.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), meanwhile, has begun constructing a 5-kilometer highway covering portions of Bulabog beach.
The Environmental Management Bureau has also confirmed that water quality on the island's white beach is improving. The agency is set to declare white beach as safe for swimming and other water recreational activities.
Water quality experts from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are now focusing their monitoring in Bulabog beach since the construction of the drainage's outfall is not yet done.
"In fact, nag-request na 'yung taga-Station 3 na mag-swimming na sila sa Station 3 and we are allowing it already. 'Yung sa Bulabog hindi pa muna kasi hindi pa naka-connect 'yung pipeline doon. So mataas pa 'yung coliform level," Cimatu said.
(Those from Station 3 have requested if they could already go swimming and we're allowing it already. At the Bulabog beach, not yet because the pipeline there has not been connected. So the coliform level is still high.)
The island has been closed to tourism since April, triggered by sewage woes and non-compliance to zoning and environment regulations by establishments there.
Government has since initiated cleanup and rehabilitation efforts.
The removal of illegal structures in wetland 3 and 6 is also ongoing. Some 85 families will be relocated to the mainland's relocation site soon. Aside from that, a temporary evacuation center that could accommodate 20 to 30 families has been set up in Malay proper, according to Cimatu.
"Ang purpose doon is to decongest Boracay. Ililipat namin doon then parang rental basis ba na habang nagtatrabaho sila doon ay doon muna. At kung lilipat na sila ay aalis na," he said.
(The purpose is to decongest Boracay. They will be moved there on a rental basis while they're working there. And once they have to leave, then we will remove it.)
Department of the Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año commended the task force's efforts in rehabilitating the island but said there is still a lot of work to be done in the remaining four months.
He also told stakeholders not to rush the reopening of the island.
"Dapat maayos natin ito (we should fix this) properly because not only the whole country is watching us, but the whole world is watching. And I believe that we can do it," he said.
With five days before entering the second month of the closure, the DSWD (Department of Social Work and Development) has started distributing food packs to residents of Boracay but some of the relief goods are contaminated.
The agency confirmed that there were seven reported cases of contamination in the DSWD regional office. The problem was traced back in the handling of the food packs. But the agency assured residents that the food packs are safe for consumption.
The inter-agency task force is set to publish guidelines on how to acquire and distribute agricultural lands in Boracay by July.
The agrarian reform department has already drafted an executive order to place the entire island under the land reform program.