Gov't asks public to 'manage expectations' for Boracay reopening

MANILA, Philippines – Top officials of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force asked the public to "manage expectations" once the island reopens to tourists on October 26.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Monday, October 15, Tourism Secretary Benadette Romulo Puyat said the public needs to understand that the rehabilitation process is being done in phases, a concept introduced only last September and not prior to the closure.

She said that the island's "full rehabilitation" will be in December 2019. (IN CHARTS: Boracay is bursting at the seams)

Puyat, together with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, and Interior and Local Government Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año all admitted there will still be visible construction and road repairs during the opening.

"October 26 is only a soft opening, only the first phase. Phase 2 will be in April and Phase 3 will be in December [2019]. We have to be fair to everybody, these are phases. It's only the first phase," Puyat clarified.

Boracay opened its shores for Aklan-based tourists on Monday for a dry run to assess the rehabilitation.

State of roads

Various groups earlier expressed concern that most roads in the island cannot be used yet, with some even describing the roads as "war zone-like."

Some residents also complained that the road works are less frequent now than the during the first months of Boracay's closure.

But Villar clarified that they are already in the last phases of road repairs, which are less noisy and busy-looking compared to the early phases. 

He explained that most of the initial road repairs also involved replacing pipes and required more manpower due to digging.

Villar added that the public can expect wider roads and even lanes allocated for bicycles once repairs are finished.

Meanwhile, Cimatu assured tourists that they can still travel around the island despite the ongoing repairs, as most hotels will be providing transportation.

Sewerage system

Cimatu declared that the wastewater problem of Boracay is "100%" resolved and reiterated that the island is no longer "a cesspool."

He also said bacteria levels in the water are at par with international standards.

The government required hotels and resorts which operate near the shore to have their own sewage treatment facilities two months into the island's closure.

It was not clear in the CNN interview whether Cimatu's statement on sewerage works completion included all hotels and resorts.

Puyat said there are some 68 hotels with over 3,000 rooms available for the reopening. Non-compliant establishments will remain closed until all requirements, including a sewerage facility, are complied with.

Rating

The task force gave themselves very high scores for their efforts in rehabilitating the world-famous island.

Cimatu rated himself and the other agencies 8.5 out of 10, citing quick action and coordination among government agencies, the local government, and business establishments.

Villar rated the efforts between 7 and 8, while Año gave a higher score of 9.

"The best measure is the feedback of the people. They are happy and satisfied," Año said.

Puyat also gave a score of 9, citing the "very strict" enforcement of the various agencies.  Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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