By Macon Araneta
Citing the combined weak implementation of environmental laws and indifference to them by the people, Sen. Cynthia Villar pushed for the creation of the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA) to sustain its rehabilitation done the Duterte’s administration.
In filing Senate Bill number 1914 or an “Act Creating the Boracay Island Development Authority (BIDA),” Villar noted that despite the existence of landmark laws such as Republic Act (RA) number 9003 or the “Ecological Solid Waste Management Act” and RA number 9275 or the “Philippine Clean Water Act,” the environment continues to gravely suffer from degradation.
“Boracay Island, which is one of the best beaches in the world and considered a world-famous jewel of Philippine tourism, was not spared from environment degradation,” said Villar as she sought for the approval of her proposed measure.
“Through the years, Boracay Island gained popularity and became a top tourism destination in the Philippines, thereby ushering in developments, such as hotels, restaurants, bars and rental houses that were built over the island to provide accommodation to the ever-growing number of tourists,” also said Villar.
The exponentially increasing number of tourists, Villar stressed, became unsustainable and breached the island’s carrying capacity.
“The apathetic concern for the environment amidst the thriving development on Boracay, along with the weak implementation of the environmental laws by authorities eventually led to the pollution of Boracay Island,” she said.
In 2018, there were several news reports exposing the environmental problems besetting Boracay Island, particularly the improper solid waste management and deficient sewerage system.
Due to the sorry state of the island’s sewerage system, President Rodrigo Duterte said “Boracay is a cesspool.l”
The persistent environmental degradation of Boracay prompted the President to issue Proclamation number 475 on April 26, 2018 declaring a temporary closure of the island as a tourist destination for six months so that it would be rehabilitated.
The President also issued Executive Order number. 53 creating the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) to ensure the rehabilitation and ecological sustainability of Boracay.
For the long term sustainability and rehabilitation done on the island, the BIATF proposed the creation of BIDA, attached to the Office of the President. It will promote and accelerate the sustainable development and balanced growth of Boracay Island.
The composition of BIDA will include representatives from DENR, DILG, DOT, DPWH. DOH, DOJ, Aklan governor, Malay mayor, all ex-officio members, a general manager to be appointed by the President and two representatives from the private sector.
Earlier, Villar received a letter from DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu requesting her to sponsor the BIATF’s draft bill on the creation of BIDA.
Cimatu said the creation of BIDA is seen to be a long-term solution to address the root causes of environmental degradation in the island as the existence of BIATF will expire on May 8, 2021.
“In its two years of existence and steadfast efforts in rehabilitating Boracay Island, the BIATF has had to undo the decades of mismanagement of the island’s resources, and rampant violation of environmental laws”