A FEW stakeholders on the popular island resort of Boracay are protesting their naming as alleged violators of environmental and easement laws.
In a text massage, Isidro A. Consunji, chairman of the board of leading property developer DMCI, said: “As far as I know, we have all permits.” In last Friday’s Senate hearing, DMCI’s resort-cum-leisure homes Alta Vista de Boracay was declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as having constructed their structures on forestland, which is supposed to be protected from any construction under the law. (See, “DENR chief wants to keep Boracay open,” in the BusinessMirror, March 4, 2018.)
A spokesman also said the company is “studying the exact allegations [against them] so they can reply directly to these.”
For his part, Juan Elizalde, owner of D’Mall, a well-known spot for recreation, dining and retail on Station 2, told the BusinessMirror they were “issued an ECC [environmental compliance certificate] by the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau, Region 8, Iloilo City, on November 16, 2004, and has always complied with all government permitting requirements relative to its business.”
The integrated retail-dining area was named by the DENR during the Senate hearing as having been built allegedly on wetlands, also a protected area.
Based on old maps of Boracay, Cimatu noted that the island actually had nine wetlands but now only four remain, as structures have been illegally built on most of them.
Some stakeholders also blame D’Mall for causing the floods in the area, because they said it was a natural “catch basin.” But Elizalde explained: “There was a creek running through the property. The engineers built a box culvert to channel the creek through the property. It was only when other structures were built around D’Mall that the flooding began.” He added that the D’Mall has always been compliant with the easement regulations and the solid waste management law.
Club Paraw, a popular resort along Station 1, declared in a signboard tacked onto a tree that it “complied with the 25+5 easement [and was issued] certificate of compliance no. 2013-0133 [on] Nov. 5, 2014 [by the] Boracay Redevelopment Task Force.”
A former member of the task force, who requested anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak on the matter, explained, however, that it was the local government unit (LGU) of Malay that issued the certificates of compliance, and not the task force itself.
“That was issued by the LGU based on the list given by the DENR,” he stressed.
Among the resorts cleared by the LGU as of February 27, 2014, were Bamboo Lounge, Willy’s Beach Resort, Boracay Plaza Resort, Blue Lilly Villa and Obama Grill. But during Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu’s inspection of resorts along the main white beach on February 23, Boracay Plaza and Willy’s were among those tagged as having violated the easement regulation. Cimatu even wrote on Boracay Plaza’s wall in an alley it shares with Willy’s the demarcation of the 25+5 easement.
All over Station 1, a number of resorts were similarly tagged by the DENR as violators
and bore signboards that say these were subject to demolition.
Cimatu was supposed to have presented an update on his agency‘s compliance to the directive of President Duterte to clean up Boracay, and a recommendation whether or not to close the island, at the Cabinet meeting on Monday. The meeting had yet to start as of press time.
Meanwhile, brand-marketing consultant Freida Dario-Santiago expressed concern over the proposed demolition of illegal structures on the island, especially along the main white beach where the DENR is looking to enforce easement regulations.
A Boracay resident since 2003, she appealed to national government agencies to make sure the demolition is done properly and the debris is not just left along the beaches. She noted that when Boracay West Cove “self-demolished” its viewing deck upon orders of Cimatu, “they jackhammered the deck and I didn‘t see any nets to catch the cement debris. What a nightmare!“
She added that the “pristine white sand of the island would be destroyed if the demolition of illegal structures is not done right. The debris will be left on the shore or, worse, these could fall into the sea then during the monsoon season, the debris will wash back to the shore. They should make sure they don‘t do more harm than good.“ She stressed that the national government should spend for the proper disposal of the debris.
In 2012 then-President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered the creation of a technical working group to review the development problems in Boracay and Baguio. This later gave rise to the formation of the Boracay Redevelopment Task Force composed of the secretaries of the DENR and the departments of Tourism, the Interior and Local Government, and of Justice. The task force also included the provincial governor of Aklan, and the mayor of Malay, which has jurisdiction over the island resort.
By March 2013, a joint resolution by the old task force agreed that the “easement along the shoreline is 25+5 meters measured landward from the mean high water mark.”