By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lawmakers want to know if Boracay Interagency Rehabilitation Task Force has a comprehensive development plan for the resort island to ensure its continued rehabilitation and protection.
Cebu Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa, chairperson of the House committee on natural resources, said the task force, led by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu should lay down its comprehensive plan to ensure sustainable development of the island.
“Ever since the committee started its investigation, our members have been asking this: is there a comprehensive development plan for Boracay, one that goes beyond the knee-jerk reaction of cleaning the island after the President called Boracay a cesspool? What is the plan from here on?” Abellanosa said in a statement.
The Abellanosa panel recently inspected the island as part of its probe on the issues hounding the Boracay closure.
Cimatu assured the panel that Boracay is no longer a cesspool and that the reopening of Boracay will push through as scheduled.
The task force presented the latest updates on the cleanup efforts and plans for the island. According to the task force, bans on the famed beach parties shall be imposed and that the fire-dancing and sand castle making will be regulated to protect the resources of the island and regulate the coastal and marine reserve.
Abellanosa also welcomed the task force’s intention to limit the arrivals in the island, and allow only such number of residents and tourists based on the island’s carrying capacity. “The President has been very strict about allowing entry only up to the island’s carrying capacity. I’m sorry but the President is very strict about that. We have to protect the health of our islands and we also want tourists to get to know other tourist destinations in the country as well,” he said.
He said the Boracay rehabilitation should be replicated in other tourism hubs in the country including El Nido and Coron in Palawan, Mactan and Oslob in Cebu, as well as Panglao in Bohol.
He assured that his panel will keenly monitor the progress of the task force and wants to know about the comprehensive plan for Boracay.
“We believe that Boracay should be champions as a potential model for sustainable development. We shall wait and see if the plans for the island will work, and if these plans will materialize,” Abellanosa said.
Aklan Rep. Carlito Marquez also sought the inclusion in the Boracay Master Plan ways to increase the island’s carrying capacity to accommodate more tourists.
North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Sacdalan, vice chairman of the House panel, proposed the creation of the Boracay Island Development Authority. He disclosed that he would soon file the bill.
For his part, Anakpawis partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao called on the task force to ensure that assistance will be given to the affected labor force and settlers in the island.