DENR stops construction activities in Boracay
BORACAY ISLAND, AKLAN—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday ordered the stoppage of all construction activities on Boracay Island, in the wake of public outcry over a viral video that supposedly showed ongoing earth-moving and site development work there.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered all construction work, including those within private establishments, stopped to belie speculations that the closure of Boracay was meant to allow the building of a planned casino complex.
“Upon verification by our team on the ground, it appears that the viral video was taken about a month ago. What may have also been [caught on video] was a road improvement work nearby. Nonetheless, the secretary ordered all construction work stopped to preclude any speculations,” said Undersecretary Jonas Leones, DENR spokesperson.
Cease and desist order
Jim Sampulna, DENR Western Visayas regional director, directed the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Boracay to issue cease and desist orders (CDO) to the developers of Costa Vista Boracay and Boracay Newcoast. He said the issuance of the CDO was ordered by Cimatu amid complaints of Yapak residents.
Lawyer Ma. Nalen SJ. Rosero, chief legal counsel of Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc., the firm developing Costa Vista Boracay, said “the images appearing in the articles do not pertain to our project site.”
“The area subject of our development is a developed resort with existing facilities. Moreover, it is our policy to respect and preserve the natural topography of the land. To do so is not only structurally sound but more importantly, environmentally friendly,” Rosero said in a statement.
“At the outset, we wish to emphasize that we have complied with all applicable laws and regulations; and have obtained all requisite government permits and licenses, in connection with our development project in Boracay,” she said.
Rosero said that as early as February this year, the company had slowed down its development work and had reduced the number of equipment and workers in the area.
The Inquirer sought Global-Estate Resorts Inc., the developer of Boracay Newcoast, but a company executive declined to issue a statement pending receipt of the CDO.
Sampulna said only minor renovation, refurbishment and upgrading of existing structures would be allowed in Boracay. Demolition and construction activities would also be allowed if these were done to comply with the 30-meter beach easement and 12-meter road easement.
The DENR earlier drew flak from residents who questioned why heavy equipment continued to clear a forested area at Yapak, despite the island’s closure and while rehabilitation efforts were underway.
The video, which was posted on Facebook by netizens, criticized the DENR’s alleged “double standard” for supposedly prohibiting tourism activities but at the same time allowing construction work.
Residents of Yapak posted photographs and video footage of the clearing and leveling of the mountain.
“Houses are being demolished because these were allegedly [built on] forest land and business operators are losing millions of pesos because of the closure. So why is this happening?” a resident told the Inquirer. The resident asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Residents said these have been going on even before April 26, when the island was closed to tourists.
But a DENR team that went to the site to validate the report found no earth-moving activities, Leones said. “An excavator was seen there but it was disassembled,” he said.
The team found an ongoing road improvement work on a separate site, which was located within a private property, and with government permit.
But he expressed dismay that the video might have fed the public wrong information.
“I’m afraid that’s fake news. While we encourage these kinds of reporting by the public … we ask that people should also make sure their reports are accurate,” Leones said.
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