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Wetland cleanup to sustain Boracay folk through pandemic

By: - Correspondent / @nestorburgosINQ
/ 05:06 AM August 13, 2020

ISLAND REHAB The rehabilitation of Boracay’s wetlands, like Wetland No. 4 near the shopping district D’Mall, is part of efforts to improve the resort island’s environmental health. —LYN RILLON

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — With few tourists going to Boracay due to the coronavirus pandemic, residents of the resort island in Malay, Aklan province, have been mobilized to help clean up its wetlands.

The Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday launched the “Boracay Wetland Bayanihan Program: We Clean and Heal as One,” a drive aimed to clean the island and help residents badly affected by the tourism slump.

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Under the program that will last until December, community volunteers will receive 5 kilograms of rice per household for the weekly cleanup in eight wetlands on the island.

“We aim to raise greater awareness on the need to protect and maintain the wetlands and also help residents who are experiencing economic hardships,” Natividad Bernardino, the BIARMG general manager, told the Inquirer.

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Prevent flooding

Around 120 volunteers joined the first food-for-work cleanup activity, most of them living in or near the wetlands.The program has been supported by the local government of Malay and private groups.The recovery of at least five of the nine wetlands was among the focus of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force when the island was closed to tourists from April 26 to Oct. 25 in 2018.

Wetlands help prevent or minimize flooding by acting as a sponge for excess water but many of those on the island have been developed or illegally used as site for wastewater discharge or trash.

Five of the nine wetlands have been adopted for rehabilitation and development by private companies under separate memorandums of agreement with the DENR.

Ecotourism areas

The projects that are being implemented in phases involve the restoration of wetlands and their development into parks or ecotourism areas.

Wetland No. 4, the most visible near the entrance to the D’Mall commercial complex, has been transformed into a park. It was adopted by Aboitiz Equity Ventures.

The other companies funding and undertaking the rehabilitation and development of wetlands include the Energy Development Corp. (Wetland No. 2), San Miguel Corp. (Wetland No. 3), Boracay Tubi System Inc. (Wetland No. 6) and JG Summit Petrochemical Corp. (Wetland No. 8).

Bernardino said occupants of some of the wetlands, who are natives of the island, still need to be transferred to relocation sites.

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Last month, 31 families, who were formerly living on Wetland No. 6, were given certificates of land ownership award by the Department of Agrarian Reform for a 2-hectare property in Barangay Manoc-Manoc.

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TAGS: Boracay wetland cleanup, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19
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