Residents belie DENR statement that mountain leveling has stopped on Boracay
BORACAY ISLAND, AKLAN — Several residents of Boracay Island belied claims by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials that work had stopped in a leveled mountain here after April 26.
A conservation group also raised concerns on the impact of the cutting of trees on the endangered fruit bats roosting on the island.
“We are not liars. Why would we lie? We live here. They don’t. We see what’s happening every day,” an irate resident told the INQUIRER after hearing statements from DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and Undersecretary Jonas Leones, the agency’s spokesperson.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Cimatu said the flattening of a mountain in Barangay Yapak was done before April 26, when the island was closed to tourists for a six-month rehabilitation.
He said work has also stopped.
He, however, issued an order, through the interagency task force that he heads, for a stoppage of all construction and site development activities.
Leones had said that a viral video taken by a resident and posted online appeared to have been taken a month ago or before the closure of the island to tourists.
But the resident who took the video belied the statement, insisting that it was taken on May 11, or 15 days after April 26.
The video showed work being done on a road leading to the project site at the back of the Boracay Ecovillage Resort and Convention Center.
“There were more trees there last month. But the cleared area appears larger,” the resident who took the video said.
Several other Yapak residents said work continued at the site the whole month of May except on Labor Day on May 1 and the barangay elections on May 14.
The residents interviewed by the INQUIRER asked that they not be named because they were contradicting the statements of top government officials.
They also pointed out that big developers are being cited as responsible for the leveling of the mountain.
While work has been concentrated on what appears to be a road, soil removal was also seen in the area where half of a mountain has been leveled.
The DENR in Western Visayas has ordered a work stoppage against the developers of Costa Vista Boracay of Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc. and Boracay Newcoast of the Global Estate Resorts Inc.
Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc. has denied that they were responsible for the clearing of the mountain.
Ma. Nalen SJ. Rosero, its chief legal counsel, said in a statement issued on Wednesday that they have slowed down development works since February and have also reduced the number of equipment and workers in the area.
Rosero said the company has “complied with all applicable laws and regulations and (has) obtained all requisite government permits and licenses” in relation to their development project in Boracay.
In response to a query of the INQUIRER, DENR Western Visayas director Jim Sampulna confirmed that the developer of Costa Vista Boracay was earlier fined P59,000 for cutting trees in their site even before their application for tree cutting was approved by the DENR.
Global Estate Resorts Inc. has not issued a statement.
The Friends of the Flying Foxes (FFF), a Boracay-based conservation group, raised concern over the impact of the cutting of trees and the leveling of part of the mountain on the endangered fruit bats species Golden-Crowned Flying Fox (Aceradon jubatus).
“While the (leveled forested mountain) is not the roosting site of the bats, it is part of the forest which is important for their survival,” FFF president Julia Lervik told the INQUIRER.
Lervik pointed out that wildlife, including monkeys driven away by the cutting of trees and the leveling of the mountain, would move into the bats’ roosting site less than 500 meters away.
The FFF has reported that the number of bats dropped from an estimated 15,000 in 1986 to 2,997, based on an official count conducted on May 7, 2016.
The significant decline is mainly due to human activity and disturbance in the bats’ habitat, according to group.
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment on Thursday called for an independent investigation not only on the leveling of the mountain but also on the implementation of “Boracay’s so-called rehabilitation program.”
“It is hard to take the (DENR)’s word (when even) the so-called rehabilitation masterplan (has not even been made public if one exists).”
The imposition of a de facto martial law on the island through the deployment of hundreds of fully armed police and soldiers and through
restriction of travel and media coverage also further hinders independent monitors to ensure checks and balances of the activities of both government and private companies in the island,” the group said in a statement./lb
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