Cimatu on Boracay encroachment: Enforcement of environmental, other laws is ‘non-negotiable’
ILOILO CITY –– The enforcement of environmental and other laws on Boracay Island is “crucial and non-negotiable,” Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said on Wednesday evening.
But Cimatu, chair of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), said they recognized the need to balance the implementation of rehabilitation programs on the island, with the needs of the residents being ordered to vacate their homes and properties for allegedly encroaching on forestland and easements.
In a virtual press conference at the meeting of the BIATF in Boracay, Cimatu cited the operations conducted on nine establishments allegedly occupying protecting forestland.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Boracay Inter-Agency Management Group conducted operations last week against 10 occupants of properties in Mt. Luho and Sitio Diniwid in Barangay Balabag.
The NBI arrested six Filipinos, a Filipino-Australian, a Belgian, and two Britons. They were released on bail after being detained for two nights.
They filed criminal charges against residents and property owners, who allegedly violated Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705 (Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines), while two were also charged with violation of PD No. 1067 (Water Code) and a municipal ordinance mandating a 30-meter beach easement.
“This proves that the rule of law is paramount,” Cimatu said in the press conference that was also attended by BIATF co-vice chairs Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, along with other officials.
Residents in areas categorized by the government as forestland are protesting their ejection. They said they were given government permits and were paying taxes for decades but were later told that their houses and properties were illegal.
The residents, especially along easements, many of whom lost their livelihood, or are jobless because of the pandemic, are appealing for time and relocation areas.
Cimatu said they would still discuss what to do with the residents, who were ordered to vacate the forestland areas and those violating easement rules.
The BIATF supervises the rehabilitation of the island, which was initially set from April 26, 2018 to May this year, but President Duterte extended it by another year..
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