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Gov’t work crews demolish illegal structures in Boracay resort

/ 06:07 PM July 19, 2012

DEMOLITION IN PARADISE. A huge volume of foreign tourists flock at the beach front of Boracay Island. On Thursday, July 19, Boracay Westcove resort in Barangay Balabag, Malay town, Aklan is demolished led by Mayor John Yap. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

BORACAY ISLAND, Philippines—In what many believed was impossible on Boracay, government work crews on Thursday demolished structures at a posh resort that officials said were illegally constructed in violation of laws protecting the environment.

Starting at 8:30 a.m., around 150 officials, policemen and demolition crews tore down parts of Boracay West Cove in Barangay Balabag at the northern end of the island.

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Boracay West Cove owner Crisostomo Aquino first insisted that the demolition be put off because of his pending petition for a temporary restraining order at the Kalibo Regional Trial Court.

The demolition team, backed by 25 policemen, entered the main area of the resort after  30-minute tense negotiations.

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Armed with crowbars and sledge hammers, the demolition crews tore down bars and lounges after surveyors from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources verified the boundaries of the property. The demolition was still ongoing as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

The demolition drew the curiosity of foreign guests at the resort. Employees also watched as policemen, government officials and reporters stayed for hours, monitoring the implementation of the demolition order.

The resort will continue to operate because of a pending case in the Court of Appeals against a closure order issued by the Malay municipal government against the resort on June 7, 2011 for lack of business, building and occupancy permits.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo Environment Secretary Ramon Paje ordered the demolition of illegal structures and closure of the resort for violation of the Forest Land Use Agreement for Tourism Purposes or FLAgT issued by DENR to the resort in 2009 during the term of then Environment Secretary Jose Atienza.

In a report, the DENR Environmental Management Bureau in Western Visayas said the resort constructed permanent structures in an area covering 3,159 square meters outside the 998-sq m area covered by the FLAgT.

A FLAgT allows the temporary use, occupation and development of any forest land for tourism purposes for a period of 25 years and is renewable for another 25 years.

The resort was also ordered close for operating without business, building and mayor’s permits.

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West Cove became controversial for constructing structures on natural rock formations and operating for years without permits.

It has also become known as the “Pacquiao resort” because it was widely believed to be owned by Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, a close friend of Aquino.  Pacquiao has repeatedly denied owning the resort, where he is a frequent visitor.

Aquino denied that the structures were built beyond the FLAgT area. He said he had applied for all the necessary permits but the local government of Malay failed to act on those applications. Malay has territorial jurisdiction over Boracay.

Aquino challenged the local officials and government agencies to run after all violators on Boracay.

“It’s a common practice here that you first build the structures and secure the permits. There are others with worse violations. Why am I being singled out?” Aquino told the Inquirer.

DENR regional executive director Julian Amador said notices have been sent to 157 resorts and hotels on Boracay that committed violations, including the non-observance of the 25-meter easements and lack of Environmental Certificates of Compliance (ECC).

Overdevelopment of island has been blamed on failure to implement laws and ordinances regulating the construction of buildings and other development projects.

First posted 11:46 am | Thursday, July 19th, 2012

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TAGS: Barangay Balabag, Boracay, Boracay Island, Boracay resort, Boracay West Cove, Boracay Westcove resort, demolition, Kalibo Regional Trial Court, Tourism, Travel
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