DENR now in full force in Boracay

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now out in full force to go after establishments in Boracay Island found violating environmental laws and regulations.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu on Wednesday sent out “mission teams,” consisting of personnel from different DENR regional offices, to three barangays in Boracay — Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak.Boracay is divided into six operational sectors.

Their 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.

President Rodrigo has given Cimatu marching orders to clean up Boracay within six months, or else the entire island will be shut down.

“We will do our best to accomplish this mission. We can and we will do it,” Cimatu told members of the mission teams during a send-off ceremony held in the town of Nabas in Aklan, which is around 25 kilometers away from Boracay.

According to DENR head executive assistant Gen. Mario Chan, there are at least 140 DENR personnel that are being assisted and secured by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the 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.

They also have to verify which establishments are directly discharging untreated wastewater into Boracay waters.

The teams are directed to report to the designated command center their accomplishment every one hour, particularly on the number of notices served and rejected as well as the names of the recipients or occupants not included in the list.

The DENR will conduct regular water testing in Boracay beaches to know if the water quality is within standard limits.

Aside from sewage problems, Cimatu said the DENR will also look 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.

After the send-off ceremony, Cimatu conducted an ocular inspection of declared forestlands in Boracay and discovered that hotels are built on these areas.

As of last Monday, 85 establishments were issued show cause orders after they were found occupying forestland areas. The establishments were given 15 days to reply.

In Station 1, Cimatu saw the rampant disregard by almost all beachfront resorts of the 25+5 shoreline easement, which is the required distance from any structure along the shore to the seawater at high tide.

Cimatu said these “illegal structures will have to go.”

The environment chief also visited a wetland in Balabag, which is now occupied by houses.

According to a map prepared by the National Mapping Resource and Information Authority, Boracay has nine wetlands but only two are left unoccupied. Cimatu underscored the need to recover the seven wetlands.

Cimatu was also disappointed after finding out that the materials recovery facility in Manoc-Manoc that he previouslycleared from garbage is again an open dumpsite.

He said garbage collection should be done in the evening and then shipped by barge to mainland Malay to prevent the accumulation of garbage in the island.### 

DENR joins I-ACT in crackdown vs smoke belchers

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the newest member to join the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT), which was created to address traffic congestion and go after dilapidated and smoke belching vehicles in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

In particular, the DENR is taking part in the council’s “Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok” campaign through its own anti-smoke belching program.

Undersecretary for Field Operations-Luzon and DENR Task Force Metro Manila head Juan Miguel Cuna leads the DENR contingent to the I-ACT. With him are members of the Anti-Smoke Belching Unit of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the environment department is more than willing to lend to the council its expertise and experience in the crackdown against smoke belchers.

“The DENR joins other government agencies in the effort to not only rid our already clogged streets with vehicles that are not road worthy, but are also persistent air pollutants,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu noted that the DENR Task Force Metro Manila has the equipment and manpower to conduct smoke emission tests.

“This capability improves the standard I-ACT practice of issuing subpoenas to substantard vehicles prior to testing,” Cimatu said.

The task force has been conducting roadside smoke emission tests on old and poorly maintained vehicles.

The test makes use of an opacimeter or opacity meter to measure the thickness of smoke emission. Vehicles that fail to meet the emission standards are issued traffic violation receipts outright.

A recent EMB study showed that around 80 percent of air pollution comes from motor vehicles, while 20 percent comes from stationary sources, including factory smoke stacks and open burning.

According to Cuna, air pollution is the cause of one out of four deaths in the country. “This highlights the health risks brought about by smoke belching and the importance of aiming for clean air,” he said.

The DENR task force joins I-ACT operations in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna.

I-ACT is also composed of the Metro Manila Development Authority, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group, the Land Transportation Office, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and concerned local government units. ### 

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