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Boracay: A case of political will

Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Originally published in Night Owl: A Nationbuilder's Manual

Before the six-month closure, coliform bacteria in Bolabog reached as high as one million most probable number (MPN) per 100 mililiter (ml). The streets were so narrow and cars could not pass through. Pedestrians competed with pedicabs and tricycles for whatever little space was left on the street. There were no sidewalks. Establishments encroached on the shoreline, with some sections left with barely any sand.

Six months later, water quality had significantly improved — with a recorded value of only 19 to 20 MPN/100 ml, according to Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu. This was even lower than the acceptable threshold of 100 MPN/100 ml for swimming areas and 200 MPN/100 ml for areas of noncontact sport.

A total of 1,438 structures, which had been built within easement areas, have been removed. The streets, which were once too narrow for cars to even enter, can now accommodate two-way traffic. PWD-friendly sidewalks have been constructed for pedestrians. Tourists will now enjoy a wider beach front following the imposition of a rule requiring a 30-meter easement from the water ’s edge.

Boracay Circumferential Road 1

At the onset, critics pointed out that Boracay beach closure seemed to be a drastic move, an isolated strategy. But the statement was nothing but a myth.

When I visited Florida as part of the US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), I learned that beach closures were part of a standard operating procedure relevant to Algal Bloom Monitoring. Recently, it closed Jupiter Beaches on Palm Beach County, Hobe Sound Beach, and Bathtub Beach in Martin County.

In Rhode Island, the moment the concentration of Enterocci bacteria in beach water exceeds 60 colony-forming units per 100 mililiters, they issue a temporary closure. In 2018 alone, there were at least 40 beach closures in Rhode Island, including Briar Point Beach in Coventry, Camp Beach in Kingston, Bristol Town Beach, Oakland Beach in Warwick, and Sandy Point Beach in Portmount. More recently, Thailand’s Maya Bay, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s film “The Beach,” was also closed indefinitely.

When Boracay opened in October 2018, Department of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar noted that Phase 1 of the 4.1-kilometer Boracay Circumferential Road and Flood Control Project also opened.

Now, the alignment, which was recovered after full implementation of the 12-meter road setback rule, will have a dual function as a traffic mitigation measure and a flood control project.

Boracay Circumferential Road 2

The roadway plan, which includes the installation of a total of 1,273 pieces of high-density polyethylene pipes (HDPE), construction of loading and unloading bays, sidewalks, and plant strips, was made accessible in December 2018.

The first two phases of the 21.64-kilometer Boracay Circumferential Road were completed in December 2020. The project will connect the main entry points of Boracay and reduce travel time by at least 75 percent. It also provides access to the Ati Community Village.

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