Less than a week to go: Boracay braces for 6-month closure

MANILA, Philippines – It's crunch time in Boracay as officials and residents of the world-famous island prepare for its 6-month closure starting Thursday, April 26, upon the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

A dry run is scheduled on Monday, April 23, to rehearse the entry and exit of passengers at Caticlan port, said Caticlan port administrator-designate Niven Maquirang.

"Para ready na tayo sa April 26, pinapraktis na natin ang ID system sa pagpasok sa Boracay," Maquirang said. (So that we're ready for April 26, we're practicing the ID system for entry into Boracay.)

A one-stop shop at Caticlan port in mainland Malay, Aklan, is also part of the rigid preparations for Boracay's closure. 

The one-stop shop by the Caticlan port management will address issues concerning the entry and exit of residents, workers, and media to and from Boracay.

Maquirang said the one-stop shop will be manned by personnel from the following agencies, aside from the local government of Malay: 

Members of the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Navy, and the Philippine Coast Guard will be in place to secure the Caticlan and Cagban ports as well.

While admitting he has no master plan for Boracay, Duterte earlier ordered a 6-month closure of the island supposedly to rehabilitate what he called a "cesspool." The Philippine government is also considering to limit the number of Boracay tourists once the tourist spot reopens.

IDs required

During the rehabilitation phase, Maquirang also said foreigners and domestic tourists, including Aklanons living in mainland Malay, are banned from entering Boracay.

Boracay residents will need to show barangay identification cards to enter and leave the island through the Cagban and Caticlan ports.

"'Pag may ID ka na may address sa Boracay, ikaw ay residente ng Boracay at kailangan lamang na i-present ang ID sa ports. Ang mga workers ang dapat kumuha ng terminal pass sa jetty ports. May special lanes at may mga IDs na rin ang mga workers na kasama sa rehabilitation," he said.

(If you have an ID that has Boracay as the address, you are a resident of Boracay, and you only need to present your ID at the ports. Workers are the ones who need to get terminal passes at jetty ports. There are special lanes and IDs for workers who are part of the rehabilitation.)

Before getting on boats, Boracay residents and workers will undergo stringent inspection and validation at the Caticlan port.

Foreign residents in Boracay will be revalidated by the BI before they can enter the island. Media will be allowed in the island with prior approval and for a definite duration.

On Thursday, some 300 workers from 16 towns of the province of Aklan will be hired also for rehabilitation work in Boracay.

They will have a vehicle convoy from Kalibo to Caticlan with the local officials of Aklan on Thursday morning.

"Sila ang gigiba sa mga structures para sa widening ng 6.2-kilometer road sa isla. Sila ang mangunguna sa pagtibag na mag-uumpisa sa Cagban sa Manoc-Manoc hanggang Yapak in preparation sa pagpasok ng DPWH," Maquirang said.

(They will demolish the structures for the widening of the 6.2-kilometer road on the island. They will take the lead in the demolition, which will start in Cagban in Manoc-Manoc, on to Yapak, in preparation for the entry of the DPWH.)

"Nakaantabay na rin ang mga trucks at barges na hahakot sa debris sa mga gigibaing structures," the official added. (On standby, too, are the trucks and barges that will collect the debris from the structures to be demolished.) 

Wake-up call

The Philippine government stressed the need to shut down Boracay for rehabilitation, especially as Filipinos on Sunday, April 22, marked Earth Day.

"If we had been warning about Boracay for over a decade now, why were our warnings not heeded?" said Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu in a statement on Sunday.

"If the Philippines has been celebrating Earth Day since 1990, or for 28 years now, why do the environmental problems plaguing Boracay and other areas persist?" he added. "We will not stop until we make Boracay a livable community."

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque cited the problem of Boracay in a separate Earth Day message on Sunday.

"This year's observance of Earth Day in the Philippines has stricken a resonant chord with the government's resolve to clean and restore Boracay Island to its previous stature as one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches of the world," Roque said. 

"This is a good wake-up call to everyone that we must not sacrifice the future ecological sustainability on the altar of economic growth and development," he added. – Rappler.com