According to the Aklan Provincial Tourism Office, Boracay Island drew over two million tourists in 2017, earning a staggering P56.14 billion, topping over its 2016 revenue of P48.8 billion.
But the sun is going down on these gains as thousands of people and businesses are expected to be seriously affected as the six-month closure of the world-famous Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan looms near.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered Boracay off-limits to tourists on Wednesday, starting April 26, after earlier branding the holiday island as a “cesspool.”
Merriam Dictionary defines cesspool as “an underground reservoir for liquid waste (such as household sewage); a filthy, evil, or corrupt place or state.”
The Departments of Interior Local Government (DILG), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Tourism (DOT) are the three lead agencies in-charge to clean up and rehabilitate the beach paradise.
DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez provided updates on Thursday, April 5, to journalists during the signing of Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between DTI and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) at the headquarters of 3M Philippines in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. (3M is an American global science company.)
He and DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña signed the MOA with the objective of “synchronizing the promotion and marketing of the country’s science and technology (S&T) products.”
In an interview with members of the media, Lopez said that during the April 4 Cabinet meeting in Malacañang, it was discussed, among other things, that businesses on Boracay Island may be able to re-open after the six-month period.
“But the full rehabilitation, we were told that it will take years because infrastructure development will be continuous. It will not stop,” the DTI chief said.
For the affected workers and, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), one month will be devoted to making plans on how to assist the affected people and businesses.
Lopez said about 17,000 workers stand to be displaced and less than 20,000 MSMEs, or a total of around 36,000 livelihoods to be affected.
“They will be the ones to be assisted and helped locate livelihoods. Others may go back to Caticlan or other tourist areas where their (skills) will be used, like in water sports, masseurs, tattoo artists,” he added. Among DTI’s part is to find markets for the MSMEs.
In terms of economic impact, Lopez said the estimate was at P200 to P300 million loss in six months.
He cited figures from the National Economic and Development Agency (NEDA) that pointed to “very minimal (1 %) impact in terms of percentage, but 5 percent in the Western Visayas economy.”
Meanwhile, de la Peña told this journalist that DOST will make available four to eight “Bioreactors” for waste conversion.
“I committed that DOST will take care of the needed Bioreactors to convert organic solid waste into compost as fertilizers. These Bioreactors will be supplied to all municipal LGUs (local government units) in Boracay only up to municipal level,” said de la Peña.
The DOST chief said the need is for six Bioreactors, “We will assess (and confer with LGUs and DENR). Each Bioreactor costs P900,000 per one-ton capacity. We will need two (Bioreactors) per one Material Recovery Facility (MRF) with six units to be deployed. The P5.4 million total cost will be shouldered by the DOST. We just need clearance from DENR and LGUs,” said de la Peña.
Read Also: Saying Goodbye With a Grateful Heart
The Bioreactors will be manufactured in the country and designed by the Industrial Technology Development Institute DOST-ITDI).
Aside from DILG, DENR, and DOT, the Department of Social Work and Development (DWSD) and Department of Agriculture (DA) are also helping in the rehabilitation efforts.