Philippine Daily Inquirer

Du30 or­dered Bo­ra­cay cleanup af­ter catch­ing whiff of foul air

- By Melvin Gas­con @melvin­gas­conINQ

A whiff of foul-smelling air while in Bo­ra­cay prompted him to or­der the clo­sure and even­tual cleanup of the world-fa­mous is­land, Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte re­vealed on Wed­nes­day.

In a speech dur­ing the 31st an­niver­sary rites of the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources (DENR), the Pres­i­dent said he had sniffed early on the stench on the is­land, prompt­ing him to call it al­most two years later as a “cesspool.”

“When I was cam­paign­ing [for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion] I went there. The wind was strong and as I was stand­ing, wait­ing for the flight, [I said] what is that smell?” he said with a gri­mace.

‘Bac­te­ria was all over’

“I sniffed the wa­ter, there’s a smell that does not fit, then when I had (the wa­ter) tested, the bac­te­ria was all over,” the Pres­i­dent added.

Mr. Duterte told the story to re­it­er­ate how “badly” the gov­ern­ment needed to in­ter­vene and clean up the is­land.

“To main­tain its vi­a­bil­ity, since we ban­ner it as the crown jewel of our tourism, it is our moral obli­ga­tion to make it clean, hy­giene (sic) and safe,” he said.

The Pres­i­dent or­dered the clo­sure of Bo­ra­cay to tourists for six months, start­ing April 26. He even­tu­ally is­sued Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der No. 53, which cre­ated an in­ter­a­gency task force to carry out the is­land’s “re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.”

“We need to clean it. We ban­ner it, (and urge tourists) ‘Go to Bo­ra­cay’ and it’s full of shit,” he said.

Tests around Bo­ra­cay

Af­ter his elec­tion, Mr. Duterte said he “silently” com­mis­sioned an agency to con­duct tests in the waters around Bo­ra­cay. It con­firmed the waters were re­ally “hugaw” (filthy in Ce­buano), he added.

The Pres­i­dent warned that the is­land’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ef- forts would go for naught if the in­flux of peo­ple into the is­land would not be reg­u­lated.

“Here’s the catch: Bo­ra­cay is a small place. If you give Bo­ra­cay an over­load of hu­man­ity, [surely] it can­not han­dle it,” he said.

He said a “huge sep­tic tank” could be con­structed and used to store all the sewage wastes pro­duced on the is­land.

En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Roy Ci­matu said the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion works were on tar­get and the gov­ern­ment may re­open the is­land as sched­uled on Oct. 26.

“We are rush­ing to com­plete the job within the six­month pe­riod given to us by the Pres­i­dent,” he said in a speech on Thurs­day.

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