CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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Boracay slated to reopen soon

Aklan (UCAN): An Ati-Atihan, a festival in honour of the Child Jesus traditionally held every third Sunday of January, will be celebrated to mark the reopening of Boracay Island, the Philippines, in honour of the island’s patron, the Santo Niño.
 
The island, known for its turquoise waters and powdery white sand, is ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, but was abruptly closed down in April by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, to facilitate a clean up. It is slated to reopen to tourists on October 26.
 
Albert Menez, chairperson of the Kalibo Santo Niño Ati-Atihan Foundation, said the October celebration would serve as the “opening salvo” of the January observation of the Feast of the Child Jesus.
 
He said the street dancing and merrymaking “are part of our thanksgiving to the Child Jesus for all the blessings bestowed upon us.”
 
Bishop José Corazon Tala-oc of Kalibo, said he appreciates the government’s efforts to rehabilitate the island.
 
“Boracay is a gift and creation of God, therefore, the government is facilitating the rehabilitation of a natural gift of God,” the bishop said.
 
Tourism and development had taken a toll on the island’s environment and the six-month shutdown was aimed at fixing the island’s sewage system and roads and remove structures built in its forest and wetlands. 
 
However, the abruptness of the closure badly disrupted the island’s workers and indigenous residents and it was not until early July that the Department of Labour and Employment began releasing assistance for those affected.
 
Authorities said tourists might be required to acquire tap cards or access bracelets as a security measure to regulate the number of visitors when Boracay reopens.
 
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that initially, the number of tourists allowed to stay on the island would be pegged at 6,405 people.
 
Environment secretary, Roy Cimatu, said tribal people on the island affected by the rehabilitation would receive assistance to ensure compliance of environmental laws.
 
“We are now requiring every large establishment on Boracay 
 
to have their own (sewerage system) and the (tribal) community must also have their own,” Cimatu said.
 
He said the government will also showcase to visitors the “customs and traditions” of the tribal people during the reopening.
 
Cimatu said the Ati tribe would serve as a “major stakeholder” of a park that the government will build where people can sell their products. 

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