By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
At least 30 percent of hotels, resorts, and other commercial establishments in Boracay Island may be allowed to operate once it reopens on October 26, but Senator Cynthia Villar is not happy with it.
Villar aired her disappointment over how government agencies involved in the rehabilitation of the Boracay Island are only targeting at least 30 percent of compliance by businesses after six months of closing the world-famous island resort to public.
She learned this during the Senate Committee on Environment’s hearing on the rehabilitation of Boracay Island Monday.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing, during the hearing, said they looking at allowing 30 percent of establishments to operate by Oct. 26.
The 30 percent, he said, should already be connected to island’s sewer system have their own sewage treatment plants (STPs), as required by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Villar, however, said their target is unacceptable for business as she said that Boracay Island cannot operate with only few establishments open.
She said the low target explains the slow rehabilitation of the Boracay Island by the interagency task force.
“Kaya pala hindi kayo nagmamadali sa trabaho n’yo dahil ambaba ng target n’yo. Ako kasi kung ako hindi magtatarget ng 30 [percent],” Villar said.
“I don’t think kung iyong target na 30 percent is a very good target, masyadong mababa (it’s too low),” she told reporters following the hearing.
In an interview at the sideline of the Senate hearing, Densing said the figure may still increase as they await for other businesses to comply government requirements.
The 30 percent, he explained, comprise those who have complete environment permits and government licenses based from their submissions at the government’s one-stop shop in Boracay “as of today.”
“We are going to do a new target as soon as we get all the papers in terms of those who intend to comply with their deficiencies,” Densing told Senate reporters.
The one-stop shop, he said, is scheduled to close on August 25. But he said they will consider extending it to give erring businesses the chance to comply.
Villar, meanwhile, scored the varying figures reported out by the DENR and the DILG on the number of the hotel and resorts that they are compelling to heed with government regulations.
What was only apparent is that two months before the scheduled opening of Boracay Island, majority of the businesses there are yet to comply, both in terms of government permits and requirement for wastewater treatment.
Densing said DILG inspectors recorded a total of 2,384 business establishments in Boracay, 440 of which are specifically classified as hotels and resorts.
Of the 440, only 71 hotels and resorts are compliant to government laws and requirements while 89 were shut down. 218 establishments have deficiencies in their documents, he said.
Susan Villar of the DENR secretariat, for the agency’s part, reported that they are looking at 162 hotels and resorts to operate when the island opens anew to the public on October 26.
Of the number, however, she said 141 establishments still do not have their own STPs.
Densing admitted “not connecting” with the DENR since they are focused on requiring all establishments in the island to put up their own or clustered STPs to be able to operate.
This irked Villar, who said, “Alam niyo, nililito niyo naman ako, hindi ko maintindihan eh. Kung ano-anong report ang binibigay niyo sa akin, ang dami daming report pero hindi ko maintindihan, pero walang maayos sa atin. Ako napapagod na ‘ko. Ngayon lang ako nakakita ng ganitong report.”
Villar also called on the agencies to set “practical” and “implementable” policies, after business owners lamented the costly amount of connecting to the sewer line and putting up STPs.
The DENR requires hotels and resorts with 49 rooms and less to set up a clustered STP, while those with 50 rooms and above should each have an STP. Those that cannot comply will not be allowed to operate.
Sympathizing with the private sector, Villar She said it is the government’s responsibility to help businesses comply with the regulations, and not only impose arbitrary standards. She said the compliance of the businesses will prove the success of the six-month rehabilitation.
“Matutuwa ba si President na ganyan lang magcocomply? Kung ako presidente magreresign na ko. Magreresign na ‘ko. Kahihiyan ‘too sa mga tao, anim na buwan kong sinara, tapos after six months ilan lang magcocomply?” Villar said.
Villar, on the other hand, said the closure cannot anymore be extended.
“Hindi na. Too much na iyon,” she said when asked by reporters.