Major Boracay resort bows to DENR crackdown
The owner of a controversial resort on Boracay Island on Friday agreed to voluntarily destroy illegal structures after Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu threatened to tear down part of the property.
Crisostomo Aquino, owner of Boracay West Cove resort, volunteered to demolish the structures he had built on top of rock formations and those not covered by a lease agreement with the government starting on Feb. 24.
Cimatu, who brought along a demolition team with him, rejected Aquino’s request to complete the demolition on five rock formations in 30 days, saying he would return on Saturday to ensure the work was being implemented.
Two other resorts that have deficiencies in permits and requirements also have voluntarily closed until they met all government requirements.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had previously issued a 25-year Forest Land Use Agreement for Tourism Purposes (FLAgT) to West Cove covering 998 square meters at Barangay Balabag in Boracay.
FLAgT allows the temporary use, occupation and development of any forestland for tourism purposes for a period of 25 years renewable for another 25 years. The agreement covers forestlands to be used for bathing, campsites, ecotourism destinations, hotel sites and other tourism purposes.
But the DENR canceled West Cove’s FLAgT on Sept. 12, 2014, for violating the terms of the agreement by putting permanent structures outside the allowed area.
Aquino had appealed the ruling with the Office of the President. There was no immediate word on what action had been taken on his appeal.
The resort became controversial for building structures on natural rock formations and operating for years without business and building permits.
In 2014, government agencies and Malay municipality, which has jurisdiction over Boracay, demolished illegal portions of the resort but West Cove went to the courts to stop the demolition.
Aquino has repeatedly denied the violations, alleging that he was being singled out.
Cimatu met Malay Mayor Ciceron Cawaling and Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores to discuss efforts to address sewage connection problems.
Rowen Aguirre, executive assistant for Boracay concerns of the Malay municipal government, said two small resorts had offered to temporarily shut down.
One was not connected to the sewage system and the other had no business permit, according to Aguirre.
The DENR has found at least 842 establishments that were violating environmental laws on the world-famous island, including those that built structures within 30 meters from the high-tide waterline and outside their allowed property limits.
In a statement on Friday, the DENR said it had issued show-cause orders to 85 establishments occupying protected forestland, giving them 15 days to explain why they should not be shut down. At least 89 more such show-cause orders had already been signed and would soon be handed down by the local DENR office.
The DENR also said 300 other establishments committed violations, mostly of the Clean Water Act, or had failed to connect to the proper sewage facilities, and 51 had so far been issued show-cause orders.
Cimatu said the crackdown would also cover violations on the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
Earlier this week, he deployed “mission teams” to serve the notices and show-cause orders and to draw up an updated list of all violators in the three barangays in Boracay—Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak. Around 140 DENR personnel and members of the teams were assisted by the military and police in this mission.
At Station 1 in Barangay Balabag, Cimatu said he saw the “rampant disregard” by almost all beachfront resorts of the required 30-meter easement. Cimatu also observed a wetland occupied by houses in the same barangay.
He lamented that only two of Boracay’s nine wetlands were unoccupied by people, citing a report by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.
A materials recovery facility at Barangay Manoc-Manoc that Cimatu had previously cleared of garbage was again being used as an open dumpsite.
The crackdown began after President Duterte gave Cimatu six months to clean Boracay, which the President described as a “cesspool” or else he would shut down the entire island.
“We will do our best to accomplish this mission. We can and we will do it,” Cimatu told members of the teams during a send-off ceremony held in the town of Nabas in Aklan, 25 kilometers from Boracay, earlier this week.
Farther to the southeast of the world-famous island, a DENR team was checking compliance of the Clean Water Act, the Solid Waste Management Act and the “no-build” zone regulation in timberlands by establishments on Bohol province’s Panglao Island.
“We have learned our lessons in the problems concerning Boracay,” Cimatu said. “We have to strictly enforce environmental laws in order to protect the country’s tourism sites so that the future generations will be able to enjoy them as well.”
“We will comb through all the establishments in Panglao and impose a crackdown on environmental violators. What happened to Boracay is a wake-up call to others,” Cimatu added.
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