DENR to mobilize resources to address Boracay woes

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is mobilizing its resources to tackle the environmental problems besetting the world-famous Boracay Island to comply with the six-month deadline set by President Rodrigo Duterte.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said he will bring in all bureaus and attached agencies of the DENR, including the Environmental Management Bureau and the Forest Management Bureau, in addressing Boracay’s serious garbage and wastewater woes.

In Monday’s flag-raising ceremony at the DENR central office in Quezon City, Cimatu said he would count on the support and cooperation of all officials and employees of the department to meet the deadline imposed by the Chief Executive.

“This is a challenge again for the department,” Cimatu said. “I will be asking you to cooperate and support our efforts to implement this directive.”

The former Armed Forces chief added that “all concerned agencies and stakeholders will be mobilized to join” in the effort to rehabilitate the world-renowned island paradise.

President Duterte earlier threatened to close down Boracay if environmental issues remain unaddressed in six months’ time.

According to Cimatu, plans will be laid out to avert a Boracay shutdown.

Cimatu’s spokesperson, DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Relations Jonas Leones said the environment chief has been closely monitoring the environmental issues in Boracay even before the President’s directive came out.

“From the start of his term, Secretary Cimatu’s priorities have already included Boracay Island. He has been in the island a number of times,” Leones said.

Cimatu had earlier ordered the local government of Malay, Aklan to stop the dumping of residual waste at the Materials Recovery Facility in Barangay Manoc-Manoc following complaints of foul odor from the residents.

The MRF has become an open dumpsite which is prohibited under Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“The indigenous peoples are part of our development plan. Some of them have been abused through leases and payments to which they agreed to without realizing the repercussions,” Leones said.

“The DENR will strengthen its reinforcement capabilities in cooperation with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples,” he added.

Leones also said that the DENR, in coordination with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will strictly enforce all appropriate laws on the island.

He confirmed that the DENR, DILG and DOT will meet Tuesday “to finalize our actions and strategies to make sure that we comply with the directive of the President.”

“With regard to the Clean Water Act, those establishments found directly discharging their untreated waste water into the water body will be penalized, issued cease and desist orders (CDO) or closed,” Leones said.

At the same time, Leones said criminal charges will be filed against owners of illegal structures in areas in Boracay classified as forestland, pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 705 or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines. Illegal structures will be demolished, he said.

Structures violating the 30-meter easement from the shoreline will also be demolished, Leones said.

“The compliance of the local government of Boracay to RA 9003 will also be evaluated. There are too many resorts and people in Boracay that the island has gone beyond its carrying capacity,” he added.

Leones emphasized that all establishments on the island are required to have waste treatment facilities. However, some directly discharge their wastes to the sea

“The poor sewage and drainage systems, garbage, and violations of environmental laws, all these will be addressed by the Department,” Leones assured. ###