P1.36-B budget needed to rehabilitate Boracay

MANILA, Philippines – Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the government will have to spend P1.36 billion to rehabilitate top tourist destination Boracay Island.

This would cover the cost of providing a social safety net to people affected by Boracay's closure, cleaning up the island, and decongesting it, Diokno said in a news briefing on Wednesday, May 30.

The budget secretary met with Task Force Boracay last May 18, although he has yet to receive a formal budget request from it. He earlier said the money will be sourced from the government's contingency or calamity fund.

The fund is also expected to be used to police the island, engage the various sectors and groups there, as well as craft and implement a medium-term rehabilitation and recovery program.

Task Force Boracay is composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Toursim.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay Island for 6 months starting April 26 due to environmental problems. A pipe in Bulabog Beach used to release wastewater straight to the sea, which led to the President calling the island a "cesspool."

With the closure, the Philippines stands to lose P1.96 billion, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia earlier said.

But Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the military's assistance would help fast-track the rehabilitation and that the island resort may open in less than 6 months.

Beyond 6 months

Diokno said he expects some projects for the island to go beyond the government's 6-month target.

In this case, Diokno said agencies may propose for additional funds for the second phase of rehabilitation works for the 2019 national budget.

"[Our] work will not stop there. A long-term plan is needed to ensure the entirety of the island is not only beautiful, but structurally sound and environmentally sustainable," Diokno said.

The budget department earlier released an additional P490 million to the Department of Public Works and Highways to augment the budget for the improvement of the Boracay Circumferential Road. The 2018 national budget allotted only P50 million for it.

The Department of Labor and Employment has also received P448 million for Boracay workers, which was charged against the contingent fund of this year's budget.

The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority is spending at least P8 million to rehabilitate the island's sewerage system, under the Boracay Island Water Company.– Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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