EXCLUSIVE: DENR won't suspend collection of environmental fees in Boracay

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 9) — Environmental fees will stay when Boracay re-opens in October despite reported discrepancies in the collection by the local government of Malay last year.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu told CNN Philippines' The Source that visitors to the world-famous tourist destination would still have to pay the P75 fee when they visit unless the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force revises the policy.

"The environmental fee... will still be in effect unless there will be some changes that will be approved by the inter-agency and of course the local government," he said.

Cimatu heads the task force in charge of rehabilitating Boracay, which has been closed to tourists for over three months now.  The island is due to reopen on October 26, when the task force expects to complete its work.

Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing earlier said that there was a discrepancy in the number of tourist arrivals in Boracay and the collection of environmental fees last year.

With two million tourists that came in 2017,  Densing said the fees collected should have reached P150 million. However, the municipality of Malay only declared P91 million in income from the fees. The Commission on Audit is looking into the issue

Last June, local officials were charged for alleged conspiracy, violation of environmental laws, and graft and corruption for other issues on the island.

Cimatu said that Boracay is on track to open by October 26 -- but admitted this was not yet official. On August 26, the task force is set to meet to decide if establishments on the island could start accepting bookings.