New Boracay resort project put on hold
ILOILO CITY—The construction of a posh resort near what environment advocates said is the only untouched portion of Boracay, Puka Shell Beach, will remain suspended until issues had been resolved over its application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), according to both the developer and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
“We voluntarily stopped our construction pending (the issuance of an ECC),” said Armi Cortes, vice president for sales and marketing of Seven Seas Properties, which is building the Seven Seas Boracay Hotel and Residences.
She said the project has reached land preparation stage that required the clearing of areas on the 2.2-hectare project site in Barangay Yapak.
The ECC application is still being reviewed by the central office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), an agency under the DENR, according to the DENR public affairs office.
The EMB Western Visayas office earlier said the ECC needs to be cleared by the central office because the project site is within an area categorized as timberland which is reserved for forest purposes.
But Cortes said the area where her company is building the resort has been titled since 1935.
She said previous Supreme Court decisions allow the development of titled properties in areas categorized as timberland.
Seven Seas Properties, which also operates the Manila Ocean Park and Hotel H2O, among others, is building a 342-room hotel that would feature, among others, a private lagoon and oceanarium. It is scheduled to open in mid-2016.
Several residents and tourists in Boracay have raised concerns on the environmental impact of the project on Puka Shell Beach, which is adjacent to the project site, and surrounding forests where endangered fruit bats roost.
Puka beach and its surrounding forest are considered the island’s last undeveloped beach and pristine forest.
Cortes clarified that the project site is not near the bats’ roosting site.
“We are also not building on the beach,” she told the Inquirer.
Cortes said her company was unable to secure an ECC earlier because of a DENR moratorium on its issuance.
She also said an ECC is not a prerequisite to obtain a building permit in Malay town in Aklan, which has jurisdiction over the 1,032-hectare Boracay Island.
But she said her firm stopped construction activity “to set an example.”
“There’s a lot of construction going on (in Boracay). A lot of those properties have no ECC,” she said.
The DENR implemented a moratorium on the processing and issuance of ECCs in 2007 amid growing environmental concerns and unregulated development which have threatened the island’s sustainability. It was officially lifted on July 15, 2014.
But this has not stopped construction activity in Boracay because an ECC is not a requirement for building permits in Malay town.
The local government of Malay, through its municipal engineering office, issued a building permit on Jan. 15, 2014 to Seven Seas Boracay Properties Inc. and Correos International Inc., six months before the lifting of the ECC moratorium.
Cortes said her company supports efforts to protect fruit bats and the environment in Boracay.
“We have our own environmental programs that we will implement,” she said, citing her company’s record at the Manila Ocean Park.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.