By Tara Yap
BORACAY, Aklan — More than a week before the April 26 closure, the Department of Tourism (DOT) initiated a Tuesday working conference for local stakeholders and presented the consolidated plan on how to rehabilitate world-famous Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan province.
“We had to present the entire plan and listen to the stakeholders,” Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre said.
“This is necessary because we want them to buy in the idea (of the closure). It is important they understand what will be done,” Alegre told the Manila Bulletin.
This is the first time the interagencies—Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and DOT—sat down with representatives of local businesses, the local residents, the local government officials, the indigenous group of Ati, and others after President Duterte approved the six-month closure starting April 26.
Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), an attached agency of DOT, presented its final plan for the second phase of the comprehensive drainage system for the resort island. The P1-billion drainage system, slated to be finished in 2020, is designed to ease flooding. But since last year, the DENR found that many establishments have been illegally connecting to the drainage pipe, which contaminates the water that is drained into the sea.
Other agencies that bared their plans were the Philippine National Police (PNP) for peace and security, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for emergency employment, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for road expansions, and DENR for identifying areas to be environmentally rehabilitated.
When asked why it took so long for the national government agencies to meet with stakeholders, Alegre explained that the consolidated plans must have the approval of President Duterte.
“We needed to finish the plan first. It’s a complicated plan,” Alegre added.
But several stakeholders were not fully convinced.
“It was really nothing new. We have read it in the newspapers and watched it on TV reports,” lamented Nenette Aguirre Graf, a town councilor of Malay and a resort owner.
Others who wanted to remain anonymous in fear of being targeted by government officials expressed disappointment that certain rules such as who can come in and out of the island has not been fully decided on and which of government-issued IDs will be honored by authorities.
Meanwhile, media outlets were barred from covering the open forum with local Boracay stakeholders.