‘Boracay to be closed for tourists for 3 months’
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has said that it is considering to close off to tourists Boracay for three months as it pushes through with its plan to declare a state of calamity in the area to give way to rehabilitation work amid environmental issues plaguing the world-tourist destination.
“Base sa mga plano namin, puwedeng proposal namin na isara muna ng konting panahon ang Boracay, siguro mga 60 days to 90 days,” Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said in a radio interview Friday.
Leones cited the case of Phuket, Thailand, which also shut down tourism in the area for a year to allow the island to recover from environmental damage.
“Kasi ang iniisip namin ‘yung mga experience sa ibang bansa. Like for example ’yung Phuket. They shut down, they prevented the tourism for one year and let the nature recover. So that’s the only way we can ensure [that Boracay] will be restored.”
Leones said closing off the islands to tourists will allow them to investigate and dig up land to see where the establishments’ wastewater are flowing out.
“Talagang nagsusulputan na parang mushrooms ang mga buildings diyan. Nagpapatong-patong na. Hindi na natitingan kung saan ’yung kanilang discharge point... Kinakailangang hukayin at makita kung saan talaga dumadaan ’yung kanilang mga wastewater.”
He added that if resorts could not connect their sewer lines to the Boracay main sewer line, they will have to come up with their own wastewater facilities.
“If they cannot connect ‘yung sewage line nila, they are required to put up their own wastewater facility para ‘yung lalabas na tubig sa kanila malinis kapag dumaan na sa Boracay water.”
As per DENR regulations, Leones said that businesses and establishments are not allowed in the 400 hectares of wetlands on the island, but they have reclaimed it throughout the years, causing flooding in Boracay.
“’Yung 400 hectares nu’n ang forest land o wetland. Ang nangyari niyan, du’n sa mga forest land, naging corrosion sila. Ang mga wetland, na-reclaim na nila. ‘Yun ang tinututukan natin ngayon. Bumaha. Barado na, at saka ‘yung dadaanan ng tubig, ‘yung pinaka-pond, na-reclaim na kaya hindi na makadaan du’n.”
“’Yung mapa na pinresent (present) ni Secretary [Roy Cimatu] sa inter-agency, nakita natin ‘yung 2009 ito ‘yung existing wetland, pero 2018 na-claim na ‘yung wetland natin,” Leones added.
Leones said they will issue a show cause order to establishments, which requires them to prove that they have permission to operate on the island.
“But kung talagang wala silang ma-explain, they will be forced to demolish [their establishments],” he said.
He said that Under the Clean Water Act, establishments can be penalized from P10,000 to P200,000 per day.
Meanwhile, DENR officials are now out in full force to go after establishments in Boracay Island, Aklan found violating environmental laws and regulations.
Secretary Roy Cimatu said he has sent out mission teams composed of personnel from different DENR regional offices to three barangays in Boracay -- Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak. Boracay is divided into six operational sectors.
According to Cimatu, the agency’s primary mission is to serve the show-cause orders to a total of 842 establishments initially found to have violated environmental laws, particularly the Clean Water Act of 2004 and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
“We will do our best to accomplish this mission. We can and we will do it,” he said.
DENR head executive assistant Mario Chan said there are at least 140 agency personnel being assisted and secured by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.
The mission teams are also tasked to check if the establishments are properly connected to the main sewer lines or have their own wastewater treatment facilities, and to verify which establishments are directly discharging untreated wastewater into Boracay waters.
Cimatu vowed to conduct regular water testing in Boracay beaches to know if the water quality is within the standard limits.
Apart from sewage problems, the DENR is also looking into other problems besetting the island paradise, such as shoreline easement, forestland encroachment, solid waste management, intrusion in wetlands and existence of structures along the roads.
He noted the rampant disregard by almost all beachfront resorts of the 25+5 shoreline easement, the required distance from any structure along the shore to the seawater at high tide.
“Illegal structures will have to go,” he said.
President Rodrigo gave Cimatu a marching order to clean up Boracay within six months, or else the entire island would be shut down.
As this developed, Senator Joel Villanueva filed a resolution seeking to inquire and review the approval and monitoring process of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the applications of Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs).
The senator sought the inquiry in relation to the recent issue surrounding Boracay Island wherein some establishments in the area were found non-compliant to environmental laws.
The DENR disclosed that 300 establishments in Boracay Island would be served notices of violation and be subjected under the review of the DENR’s regional office.
These establishments were given a window of two months to install their own wastewater treatment facilities or to connect to the Boracay Island Water Company sewage treatment plant.
The DENR had also given notices of violation (NOV) to 51 unnamed establishments found violating one of the provisions of the Clean Water Act of 2004 which mandates all commercial and residential establishments dispose septic waste through a treatment facility.
Furthermore, the DENR is set to serve 174 show-cause orders to illegal forest occupants who have encroached on the Island’s timberland areas;
The said initiatives of the DENR are the Department’s response to the President’s directive after likening the island to a “cesspool” and warned that the government would shut the island down due to pollution.
According to the Boracay Foundation, Inc., the threatened closure would result in the loss of jobs of an estimated 90,000 workers.
Resolution No. 646 filed by Villanueva cited the need to review the conduct of environmental impact assessment and the approval process of the DENR with regard to applications for ECCs.
The senator’s recommendation seeks to ensure that the ECCs being issued to any undertaking or project would guarantee that it would not cause environmental damage or aggravate the impact of climate change.
The senator also called on the DENR to upgrade the process of environmental assessment and issuance of ECC.
“Businesses and industries should account for the possible impact of their operations in aggravating the impact of climate change. Our regulatory agencies should also improve their capacity in monitoring compliance and enforcement of environmental policies,” Villanueva said.
“The proliferation of private establishments in the Boracay Island and the poor monitoring and enforcement of environmental laws have resulted in massive environmental damage in the Island which threatens the viability of the Island as a prime tourist destination,” the senator said.