BUSINESS establishments and illegal settlers have encroached on wetlands on the island of Boracay and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) wants them out.
Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said in a statement that he has already issued a directive to reclaim the wetlands and restore their ecosystem services and values.
During the public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen.Cynthia A. Villar, held at a resort in the pollution-challenged island paradise last Friday, Cimatu said the wetlands need to be restored because they act as a catchment area during the rainy days and they prevent flooding.
Experts say wetlands are the link between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world.
Wetlands are important because they protect and improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitats, store floodwaters and maintain surface water flow during dry periods.
Cimatu noted there are actually nine wetlands in Boracay, based on an old map of the island.
But an investigation by the DENR’s National Task Force Boracay (NTFB) revealed that four of these wetlands are now “missing.”
The missing wetlands, he said, are now occupied by a mall, a resort hotel and around 100 illegal settlers, who contribute to water pollution on the island.
He added the DENR has already issued notices of violation (NOVs), cease-and-desist orders, and demolition notices for the purpose of reclaiming the wetlands.
“We have advised them to self-demolish. We will reclaim all nine wetlands,” Cimatu vowed.
During the hearing, Cimatu said he plans to revive the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) on the island, which was abolished as a result of the government’s rationalization plan in 2014.
He added he was surprised to learn the DENR has no office in Boracay.
The DENR chief said the abolition of the Cenro Boracay posed a problem on the management of the island in terms of compliance with environmental laws.
“The weakest link of the DENR is enforcement of environmental laws,” Cimatu said.
As of February 26, the DENR had already issued 207 NOVs to establishments found violating environmental laws.
NOVs were issued to 116 establishments for violating Republic Act (RA) 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act; 77 for violation of RA 8749, or the Philippine Clean Air Act; five for violation of both laws; and nine for those operating without a valid environmental compliance certificate (ECC), which is required under Presidential Decree 1586, or the Environment Impact
The NTFB reported that out of the 578 establishments surveyed and inspected, 383 are connected to the sewage line of the island’s water and sewage-system providers and 195 are not.
A total of 382 are connected to the Boracay Island Water Corp. (BIWC) sewer line and one to the Boracay Tubi System Inc.
Meanwhile, Cimatu directed the BIWC to repair and rehabilitate its wastewater-treatment plants (WTP) in barangays Manoc-Manoc and Balabag.
The Balabag WTP exceeded capacity and caused wastewater to leak from its burst pipes. The leak has been found to be the source of the foul odor in some parts of the barangay.