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SONA 2018 RECALLED

A much improved Boracay greets tourists a year after 2018 SONA


A cleaner, much improved Boracay Island has welcomed over 2.5 million local and foreign tourists after its months-long closure for massive rehabilitation last year, according to the Malay Municipal Tourism Office.

An average of 190,000 tourists every month visited the world-famous white sand beach for the first half of 2019, with April as the peak month with 222,330 visitors.

The rehabilitation was launched months after President Rodrigo Duterte, in  February 2018, described Boracay as "cesspool" due to sewerage and sanitation issues.

In April last year, Duterte approved the recommendation of an inter-agency task force for a six-month closure of the island, which is one of the country's top tourist destination.

This task force was composed of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Tourism.

During the previous State of the Nation Address, Duterte said that the efforts to restore Boracay was just a pilot move for many more conservation measures that will be implemented in other tourists spots in the Philippines.

"We intend to restore its environmental integrity, alongside measures to alleviate those whose livelihood were momentarily affected. Environmental protection and ensuring the health of our people cannot be overemphasized; thus, our actions in Boracay mark the beginning of a new national effort," he said during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year

"This is just the beginning. For the other tourist destinations needing urgent rehabilitation and enforcement of environmental and other laws shall soon follow."

Boracay was reopened to the public on October 26, 2018 after its water quality significantly improved from having 1 million most probable number (mpn) of coliform/100 ml to only 18.1 mpn/100 ml.

The safe level, according to experts, was 100 mpn/100 ml.

Establishments in Boracay were required to secure environmental compliance certificates before they had been allowed to resume operations.

As of July 10, 2019, a total of 365 establishments on the island have been granted the government's accreditation. Over 13,000 rooms are available for tourists' accommodation.

Wild revelries along the shore, as well as smoking and drinking in public areas, were no longer allowed as the white sand beach was rebranded by authorities as a tranquil escape from the metropolis.

According to the DOT, the number of tourists allowed to stay on the island was 6,405 per day so as not to exceed its carrying capacity.

Despite the six-month closure of Boracay, the DOT said that the Philippines had its highest number of tourist arrivals in 2018 with around 7.1 million foreign visitors flying into the country.

A few months after the success of Boracay's rehabilitation, efforts to resuscitate Manila Bay has been launched by the government.

The Department of Tourism previously inspected the water quality in El Nido, Palawan and said that the government also plans to rehabilitate other tourist destinations such as Panglao Island in Bohol; Coron, Palawan; Siargao, Surigao del Norte, and Puerto Galera, Mindoro. —KBK, GMA News

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