Big plans for little island: Vision for ‘rehabilitated’ Boracay revealed

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Boracay

Ambitious plans have been revealed for how Boracay could look after it is has been “rehabilitated” following a period of closure.

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Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu recommended this week that the white-sand island resort be closed for up to a year to address its environmental problems.

The announcement came after President Duterte blasted officials on the island for allowing the degradation of the tourist destination into what he described as a “cesspool“.

The senate also launched a probe into Boracay’s problems and discovered widespread breaches of environmental and building laws.

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Now, the Department of Tourism is looking forward to see Boracay as a “premium destination” after its rehabilitation.

Speaking at an “Oplan Save Boracay” event on Thursday (March 15) regional DOT director Helen Catalbas said: “I envision Boracay to be a premium destination after it is closed, and then rehabilitated and opened big time to the world tourism community. It is going to be a destination that has the class that the world expects from the best island in the world.”

She added that it wouldn’t be entirely off-limits to tourists during the closure. “It’s not totally closed to tourists, but we should inform them that they should not expect Boracay to be really orderly when they arrive. The full scale closure is not feasible and I don’t think that it is the intention of the DOT.”

According to urban planner Jun Palafox, the newly rehabilitated Boracay could have wide open spaces, eco-buildings and even a railway.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, he shared his vision for the island, including photos of how the resort could look.

Boracay

The government asked Palafox and his team to advise on the island’s future, and they have now put forward 33 recommendations to address issues such as transportation, sewerage, infrastructure and waste management.

He said that according to his vision, Boracay’s land area would be 70 per cent open space.

Boracay

Buildings — not to be any higher than coconut trees — would have to be at least 50 metres from the high-water level, double the current minimum requirement.

Palafox’s vision of Boracay could also include a railway or tram system along with a comprehensive network of bicycle lanes.

Boracay

He also recommended a cap on the number of vehicles allowed on the island and suggested battery-operated trikes, buses or even monorail as alternatives. The proposals also resurrected a plan to connect the island to the mainland via a bridge or cable car.

There could also be limits placed on the number of visitors, and all major establishments would be required to have their own sewage treatment plants. Currently, no more than 60 per cent of the island’s establishments are compliant with the Clean Water Act.

Boracay is consistently named one of the best tourist islands in the world. It generated nearly 56 billion pesos in revenues last year and welcomed more than two million tourists.

Despite concerns about overdevelopment, we reported this week that plans for a $500 million casino-resort are pressing ahead. Plans have also been submitted for a 1,001-room mega-hotel on the island.

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