Next target: 174 Boracay forest land encroachers
Illegal occupants of Boracay’s forest land are the next target of the environment department after it notified 51 of 300 beachside establishments that they were dumping sewage into the sea.
In a statement on Sunday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced that 174 show-cause orders had been signed and would be issued to “illegal forest occupants who have encroached on the island’s timberland areas.”
The DENR Western Visayas office identified 842 illegal occupants in the timberland area as early as July last year, according to Regional Director Jim O. Sampulna.
“We will meet with them and if they cannot present to us any documents that would prove their legal occupancy—say, special permits from the DENR such as FLAGT, or the forest land use agreement for tourism purposes—we will tell them to vacate the area,’’ Sampulna said.
“The timberland belongs to the state.”
He said the DENR would also check compliance with the 30-meter easement between the shore and establishments on the beachfront.
The DENR official said a task force — composed of representatives of the local government, police, military and the justice department — would enforce the laws.
The probe of the forest and shore encroachers is part of the DENR’s crackdown on environmental violations in Boracay, following directives by President Rodrigo Duterte to clean up the island, which he described as having become a “cesspool.”
Last week the DENR announced the issuance of notices of violations to 51 establishments for noncompliance with the Clean Water Act, which mandates waste water disposal through a treatment facility.
“We will be calling them for a technical conference and from there, they need to work on the required measures to address their violations,’’ Sampulna said.
“If they will not shape up, we will be escalating their cases to the Pollution Adjudication Board, [which] will then decide whether to penalize them or totally close them down.”
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has warned that establishments that fail to respond within the week will face water disconnection, while those that fail to connect to proper sewage treatment facilities in two months will be closed down.
“To me, the number one tourist destination in the world is dying,” Sampulna lamented. “The island is overpopulated, unregulated and uncontrolled. There is failure of governance in Boracay, as if there is no government there.” (See related story in Regions, Page A8.)
He called on the local government of Malay town, to which Boracay belongs, to do something about overpopulation on the island.
Boracay attracts 2 million visitors yearly and earns P56 billion in annual revenues. Some 50,000 people, many of them workers, live on the 1,032-hectare island in Aklan province. —JAYMEE T. GAMIL
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