Full Boracay rehab by December 2019, says DOT chief

MANILA, Philippines – Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat told senators on Thursday, September 13, that the rehabilitation of world-famous Boracay Island will be completed by December 2019.

At the DOT budget briefing at the Senate, Puyat said while Boracay would have a "soft opening" in October, only major road networks would be finished by then.

"So by October 26, we’ll have only the major roads built but definitely, we see maybe complete [rehabilitation] by December of 2019," Puyat said 

She said that there are 3 phases of rehabilition – the first phase completed by October, second phase by April 2019, and the third phase by December 2019. (READ: Boracay rehab challenges: Treating sewage, relocating illegal settlers)

In a media interview after the briefing, Puyat explained that other agencies would figure more prominently in the other phases of rehabilitation.

"The second phase is for other departments like DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways). Hopefully the rain will not impede construction works so that these will be done by April 2019," Puyat said in a mix of English and Filipino.

She added, "TIEZA (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority) will be able to build the sewerage by December 2019, given the P1.1 billion [budget] for the whole drainage."

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources revealed on Wednesday, September 12, that Boracay can only accommodate a total of 54,945 people a day. There should only be 19,215 tourists, or a total of 35,730 residents and tourists. (READ: They outnumber tourists! Over 15,000 workers to be booted out of Boracay)

Puyat said that they are in talks with the airlines to limit flights to Caticlan or Kalibo airports in Aklan province. The tourism chief said that flag-carrier Philippine Airlines has committed to keep flights to Caticlan to once a day.

"We expect only 6,200 tourists [in Boracay] per day only, and 98% of them come via air. We heeded the advice of Senator [Richard] Gordon to talk to the airlines, in cooperation with the local government and the Civil Aeronautics Board," Puyat told reporters.

Despite the looming decrease in flights to Aklan airports, Puyat remained confident that the limit on the number of tourists in Boracay would not affect the country's overall tourist arrivals.

For the first half of the year, foreign tourist arrivals in the Philippines reached an all-time high of 3.7 million. The DOT said the figure rose by 10.4%, compared to the 3.3 million recorded in the same period in 2017. (IN NUMBERS: Foreign visitors up by 10% despite Boracay closure)

Tourism officials are confident that the year-end target of 7.5 million arrivals will be achieved.  

President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the closure of the tourist hotspot because of environmental problems. – 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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