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Moratorium on Boracay construction imposed

/ 07:20 AM February 28, 2018

EASEMENT INSPECTION Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu supervises personnel measuring the easement of an establishment on Boracay Island from the road to the beach. —LYN RILLON

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan — A six-month moratorium on building construction on Boracay Island will be implemented starting June amid a crackdown on violators of environmental laws and regulations.

The moratorium will be implemented by the municipal government of Malay in Aklan province, which governs the three villages of the popular tourist destination.

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It is among the measures in a six-month action plan presented by Malay Mayor Ciceron Cawaling during a special stakeholders meeting at Eco-Village Convention Center here on Tuesday.

Around 700 residents, including expatriates, village and municipal officials, and business and property owners, attended the meeting.

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No details yet

Rowen Aguirre, municipal executive assistant for Boracay affairs, said the municipal council had yet to outline the details of the moratorium.

The unregulated construction of hotels, resorts and other establishments is among the causes of environmental and other problems afflicting the 1,032-hectare island, which attracted 2 million tourists in 2017.

President Duterte has imposed a six-month deadline for government agencies and the local government to solve the environmental problems of the island, which he noted had turned into a “cesspool.” He threatened to close down the island if the environmental problems were not solved.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is also cracking down on establishments violating environmental and zoning laws in other tourist areas—Panglao Island in Bohol province, El Nido and Coron towns in Palawan province, and Puerto Galera town in Oriental Mindoro province.

Notices of violation

In a statement, the DENR said that as of Feb. 24, it had issued 181 notices of violations to 161 establishments of the 562 it recently surveyed since the President ordered a crackdown on pollution on the island.

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Earlier, the DENR said that at least 842 establishments had been found violating environmental laws since last year, including those that built structures within 30 meters from the high tide waterline.

Of the 181 notices, 92 were for violations of the Clean Water Act (expired or lack of discharge permits), 78 were for violations of the Clean Air Act (lack of permits to operate), four were for violations of both the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, and seven for violations of the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System (no environmental compliance certificate).

Amid concerns that Boracay would be shut down, many residents voiced support for the crackdown on violators but called on the national government to spare those who abide by the law.

“We welcome the move to correct the violations. Many will be affected but that is OK as long as the implementation would be fair and there will be no exemptions,” said Lucresia dela Rosa, a resident of Manoc-Manoc village who operates a restaurant.

Dela Rosa admitted that her property would be affected if the road easement regulations were implemented.

“The violations have been happening for so long but some are allowed while most are prohibited,” she told the Inquirer on the sidelines of the meeting at the convention center.

Tarpaulin signs

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu inspected establishments along the island’s white beach, the main tourist attraction of the island, and supervised the posting of tarpaulin signs on those allegedly violating the 30-meter setback from the waterline.

Residents questioned the posting of the notices in public.

“Why embarrass us and our guests? They can just give us notices if indeed we are violating,” said property owner Anita Aguirre.

Aguirre said the demolition of illegal structures should be implemented simultaneously and without exceptions.

Property owners are also appealing the implementation of a 30-meter buffer on roads on the island, officials said.

Reconsider road buffer

On Tuesday, the municipal council passed a resolution appealing to the President to reconsider the road buffer provision mandated by Presidential Proclamation (PP) No. 1064, which was issued by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006.

“We will lose our land,” Vice Mayor Abraham Sualog said in Filipino amid applause and cheers from the audience.

The council will instead ask that a 12-meter road buffer, which is mandated under a municipal ordinance, be implemented.

The business owners and residents said implementing the 30-meter buffer would require destroying hundreds of structures along the main road.

Nenette Aguirre Graf, president of the business group Boracay Foundation Inc., said implementing the provisions of PP No. 1064 would be “unrealistic.”

It would mean demolishing portions or entire structures of hundreds of establishments on both sides of the 7-kilometer main road and side streets, Graf said. —Reports from Nestor P. Burgos Jr. and Jaymee T. Gamil

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TAGS: Boracay cleanup, Ciceron Cawaling, DENR, environmental laws
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