Make resort pay, groups tell DENR in Boracay

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ILOILO CITY, Philippines – An alliance of urban poor groups in Aklan has demanded a stop to the release of P5 million in public funds for the demolition of illegal structures of a private resort on Boracay Island in the province.

“It is insulting and unjust to us who are in danger of being driven away from our homes without a relocation site and livelihood while government can spend this much to destroy illegal structures,” said Kim-sin Tugna, spokesperson of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap in Aklan.

Tugna said that while they support the removal of illegal structures in Boracay, this should be at the expense of the violators, who are mostly big businessmen.

“Government officials and agencies allowed them to violate the law. But the people will pay to clean up their mess?” he said.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje has ordered the release of P5 million to complete the demolition of the structures of the Boracay West Cove resort.

The local government of Malay demolished portions of the illegal structures on July 19, 2012, but the demolition was not completed, allegedly due to lack of funds.

Under a memorandum of agreement expected to be completed this week, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will grant P4.8 million to the local government unit while P170,000 will be used by DENR personnel for monitoring and supervision.

Adeluisa Siapno, DENR regional executive director, said the agency would ensure that the funds are spent properly.

The DENR in Western Visayas is in the process of reviewing the forest land use agreement for tourism purposes, or FLAgT, covering 998 square meters issued by the DENR to the resort in 2009 during the term of then Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza.

A FLAgT allows the temporary use, occupation and development of any forest land for tourism purposes for a period of 25 years, renewable for another 25 years. The resort was also ordered closed for operating without business, building and mayor’s permits.

The resort has been ordered demolished for lack of building, business and other permits, and for allegedly building structures outside the FLAgT-covered area. These alleged violations have been repeatedly denied by the resort’s owner, Crisostomo Aquino, a close friend of Atienza and boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.

But Tugna said government funds should be spent for social services, especially for the poor.

He said that with P5 million, the government could purchase a 1.5-hectare relocation site for around 700 families along Sooc River in the capital town of Kalibo, whose homes are in danger of being demolished due to bridge repair and river rehabilitation and development projects.

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