BORACAY— On the first day of the six-month closure of Boracay Island, President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a proclamation declaring s state of calamity in the three barangays of Manoc-Manoc, Balabag and Yapak to protect public health and prevent further environmental degradation.
Proclamation No. 475, mobilizes concerned government agencies, including the police and military, to implement the island closure and facilitate the rehabilitation works. This will also allow authorities to impose price control on basic goods, use of funds for relief and rehabilitation efforts, among others.
“The continuous rise of tourist arrivals, the insufficient sewer and waste management system, and environmental violations of establishments aggravate the environmental degradation and destroy the ecological balance of the Island of Boracay, resulting in major damage to property and natural resources, as well as the disruption of the normal way of life of the people therein,” the four-page proclamation stated.
More than to 18,000 tourists visit Boracay a day with tourist arrivals increased by more than 160% from 2012 to 2017, according to the data from the Western Visayas Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
“It is necessary to implement urgent measures to address the abovementioned human-induced hazards, to protect and promote the health and well-being of its residents, workers, and tourists, and to rehabilitate the Island in order to ensure the sustainability of the area and prevent further degradation of its rich ecosystem,” it added.
Under the proclamation, the state of calamity in the island will remain in effect until lifted by the President within the six-month closure period.
The proclamation also reads that all departments and other concerned government agencies are also hereby directed to coordinate with, and provide or augment the basic services and facilities of affected local government units, if necessary.
The President also ordered government agencies and affected local government units to implement and execute the closure and rehabilitation n works in accordance with pertinent operational plans, including the Boracay Action Plan.
The proclamation has enumerated the following findings from the investigations and validations conducted:
- There is a high concentration of fecal coliform in the Bolabog beaches located in the eastern side of Boracay due to insufficient sewer lines and illegal discharge of untreated wastewater into the beach.
- Most commercial establishments and residences are not connected to the sewerage infrastructure of Boracay Island, and waste products are not being disposed through the proper sewerage infrastructures in violation of environmental laws, rules and regulations.
- Only 14 out of 51 establishments near the shores of Boracay Island are compliant with the provisions of Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.
- Dirty water results in the degradation of coral reefs and coral cover of Boracay, which declined by approximately 70.5% from 1988 to 2011, with the highest decrease taking place between 2008 and 2011 during a period of increase tourist arrivals (approximately 38.4%).
- Solid waste within Boracay is at generation rate of 90 to 115 tons per day, while the hauling capacity of the local government is only 30 tons per day, hence leaving approximately 85 tons of waste in the island daily.
- The natural habitat of Puka shells, resting grounds of marine turtles, and roosting grounds of flying foxes or fruit bats have been damaged and/or destroyed.
- Only 4 out of 9 wetlands in Boracay remain due to illegal encroachment of infrastructures, including 937 identified illegal structures constructed on forestlands and wetlands, as well as 102 illegal structures constructed on areas already classified as easements, and the disappearance of wetlands, which act as natural catchments, enhances flooding in the area.
The proclamation also urged tourists, residents and establishment owners in Boracay to comply with the directives including for the closure that would pave way for the rehabilitation and restoration of the island.
The Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and other law enforcement agencies with the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have also been directed by the President to ensure peace and order in the island under the state of calamity.