Illegal structures to be demolished, drainage inspections, petitions to halt building permits to stop Boracay’s degradation

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City workers demolishing an illegal structure in Boracay (Photo: www.notey.com)

By Lara Climaco | FilAm Star Correspondent

More than 25,000 have signed a change.org petition calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to immediately stop the local government from issuing any further building permits in Boracay. A moratorium on building permits is one of the moves being considered by Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu, who is under a 60-day deadline to come up with solutions to the island’s environmental degradation.

“The President did not actually mention the closure of Boracay in the Cabinet meeting. He was emphatic that in 60 days Cimatu should make his recommendations. Of course, that — one recommendation that could be made, could be the closure of Boracay but we don’t know because we have to wait (until) the end of 60 days,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said at his February 26 press briefing when asked whether the President was leaning towards declaring a state of calamity in the world-famous tourist destination or ordering a 60-day closure of the island.

The Cabinet meeting occurred last February 5, based on earlier news reports.

“The President was emphatic in the Cabinet meeting, to remind the local government units (LGUs) that they will incur criminal liability for malfeasance and misfeasance for their failure to protect the natural environment in Boracay. He said it, he was very emphatic; although he will wait for the recommendations of Cimatu,” Roque added.

The change.org petition, created by a native of Aklan who now lives in London, cited data indicating that the local government of Malay had issued 296 building permits within a three-month period in 2014 and monitoring reports showing rampant permit and environmental violations.

The Municipality of Malay has issued an official statement on the ultimatum issued by Duterte.

It acknowledged its responsibility over Boracay Island and enumerated its accomplishments.

“We also recognize that the President is not happy with what is happening in Boracay Island, despite it being regarded as the Best Island in the World by the Conde Nast Traveler (2017); despite the constant effort of the Municipal Planning and Development Office to pursue and prosecute those who encroached on the 25+5 setback at the beachfront upon the enactment of its ordinance; the organization of Bolabog Task Force by the Office of the Municipal Mayor to rehabilitate and maintain the beauty of Bolabog Beach; despite the successful clearing of all wastes in the Boracay Central materials recovery facility (MRF) within 13 days; and the strict implementation of the construction of sewage treatment plants (STPs) on establishments that sought permit from the LGU,” the Malay LGU said in the statement.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) deployed at least 140 personnel to Boracay on February 23 to serve show-cause orders to an initial list of 842 establishments. The alleged violators comprise about 30 percent of businesses operating on the island. Most of them are suspected of discharging wastewater without proper treatment, so their drainage systems will be inspected by the DENR mission teams which are escorted by military and police forces.

DENR estimates placed Boracay’s daily wastewater volume at 17.5 million liters. With only two sewage treatment plants on the island, only about 50 percent of the wastewater is properly treated. Private homes account for about 30 to 40 percent of the untreated wastewater while business establishments generate the rest, according to the DENR.

Cimatu also met with Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores and Malay Municipal Mayor Ceciron Cawaling last February 23. The local government officials concurred with the DENR’s plan to immediately demolish illegal structures in Boracay. The first to go was the 120-square-meter viewing deck of Boracay West Cove, a resort located along Diniwid Beach in Barangay Balabag.

Beachfront resorts in Station 1 are among the next targets for violating the required 30-meter shoreline easement.

A total of 174 show-cause orders are expected to be served to establishments illegally occupying timberland areas. About 85 orders were served as of last week.

The government officials have also worked out a waste disposal plan that calls for garbage being moved every night from the MRF in Barangay Manoc-Manoc to mainland Malay via barges.

In its official statement, the Municipality of Malay also revealed it would pursue the integration of mainland Malay with Boracay to decongest the popular tourist destination. This was likewise proposed in the change.org petition, which recommended the building of a bridge between Boracay and Aklan in order to disperse the tourist traffic throughout the coastal mainland.

Negative publicity surrounding Boracay Island has not dampened tourist arrivals so far. According to the Department of Tourism, only 12 establishments have reported cancellations as of February 21.

The Senate will start an inquiry on the island’s degradation this month.

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