Authorities, in an initial audit of the local government’s records of collected environmental fees in Boracay, are claiming they may have found some discrepancies.
The audit was undertaken in the wake of controversy about Boracay’s unbridled environmental degradation that has forced the national government to effect the island’s immediate shutdown this summer.
Visitors to the world-famous island are required to pay a P75 environmental fee, part of which is supposed to help efforts to clean up the island’s waters. Some 2 million tourists visit Boracay annually, and this should give local officials an estimated collection of about P150 million in environmental fees alone. But records indicate that only P91 million was collected in 2017, according to Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre.
After seeing the discrepancy, the DILG (Department of Interior & Local Government) is now asking the involved local officials to explain.
The local officials in charge of the island supposedly spend 15% of the environmental fees to construct hospitals in the province. But even so, they still need to clarify how the rest of the funds were used. Regarding this, the DILG has warned that the local officials could be held criminally liable if found guilty of misappropriating the funds.
Famous for its fine white sand, buzzing night scene, and abundant water sports, Boracay will be closed to tourists starting April 26 so that authorities can address the pollution and water degradation problem besetting it.
The closure was ordered last April 4 by no less than President Duterte who seems to be out to castigate Boracay’s local government and residents for what was termed “overzealous” development and for permitting beachfront building without installing proper sewage and water treatment facilities.
Assessment of the situation has found that many businesses in Boracay have been releasing wastewater directly into the sea, violating rules on wastewater management, as per the assertions of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. Only 47 percent of establishments on the island were reported to be connected to a sewer line. Also to be addressed are the 900 to be connected to a sewer line. Also to be addressed are the 900 establishments located within the 30-meter shoreline easement or “no-build zone”, or are in wetlands or forest lands. Concerned stakeholders, on the other hand, claim that Boracay’s shutdown could lead to job losses for some 36,000 people and about P56 billion in lost revenue, so they are appealing for only partial, instead of a full closure of the island.