Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said at least 51 business establishments have been served with notices for violations of Republic Act 9275 or the Clean Water Act of 2004, which requires all commercial establishments and residential units to dispose of septic waste through a treatment facility. AP

DENR set to dismantle illegal Boracay structures
Jennifer P. Rendon, Louise Maureen Simeon, Robertzon Ramirez, Elizabeth Marcelo, Catherine Talavera, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2018 - 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will soon start dismantling illegal structures that contributed to environmental problems on Boracay Island, especially those built within areas classified as forestlands.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said at least 51 business establishments have been served with notices for violations of Republic Act 9275 or the Clean Water Act of 2004, which requires all commercial establishments and residential units to dispose of septic waste through a treatment facility.

Cimatu said these establishments are given two months to either connect to the sewerage treatment plant of Boracay Island Water Co. or install their own wastewater treatment facilities. 

He earlier instructed the DENR Region 6 office to inspect about 300 tourism-related establishments on the island. They may be ordered closed if found to be violating the Clean Water Act.

Jim Sampulna, DENR-6 regional executive director, assured those served with violation notices of due process.

“After 15 days, we would have a technical conference to ascertain their compliance,” he said in reference to the 51 establishments, which were mostly those investigated last year after they were reported to have failed to connect to the sewerage treatment facility.

Last week, President Duterte threatened to shut down Boracay Island, which he called a “cesspool” following reports that thousands of establishments there have no proper sewage treatment facilities and are directly discharging their untreated wastewater into the sea. 

Sampulna vowed to meet the six-month deadline, adding that the next move for the DENR is either to slap penalties or order the closure of erring establishments.

Unless the problem is resolved, Cimatu said the municipal government of Malay should put a moratorium on the issuance of business permits for those who would want to operate on the island.

“The local government of Malay has direct jurisdiction and supervision over Boracay. It is the primary government unit responsible for ensuring that all laws, environmental or otherwise, are executed and followed,” he said in a statement.

Aside from the moratorium, he also suggested that it consider a temporary ban on the construction of new buildings, especially in the beach area.

“We have to go back to the core of the problem, which is the strict enforcement of all existing laws and the protection of the environment,” Cimatu stressed.

He earlier announced that the DENR would temporarily suspend the issuance of environmental compliance certificates in Boracay, which is among the requirements for the construction of new buildings.

Cimatu expects the Aklan provincial and the Malay town governments to match the efforts of the DENR, which was given by President Duterte only six months to address the water pollution problem in the world-famous island.

“Just like students who are told to pass their papers, finished or not finished, on a set deadline, the same will be for us in the DENR. We have to put an end to this huge Boracay problem in six months,” he said.

Prosecute violators

Senators urged the executive branch to immediately prosecute owners of private establishments and the local government officials responsible for the degradation of the world-famous Boracay Island.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, a former mayor of San Juan City, said local officials bear great responsibility in ensuring the sustainability of Boracay as he also suggested the imposition of a moratorium to “let the island breath.”

“The island is already being suffocated, imagine the number of people visiting it during peak season, almost a million, I think. I believe those public establishments that are found guilty of not following environmental laws and that caused the deteriorating situation of Boracay have to be charged as well as local officials,” Ejercito told reporters.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, former mayor of Valenzuela City, said the municipal and provincial governments should have been strict in enforcing and passing ordinances aimed at keeping Boracay clean.

“Boracay is a crown jewel of our country, it’s always voted as one of the best islands in the world. So, we can’t let it deteriorate,” Gatchalian said.

For Sen. Nancy Binay, chair of the Senate committee on tourism, the DENR and local governments should organize citizens’ teams that will look after Boracay, as Sen. Sonny Angara warned that if the situation worsens, it would force the government to close the island.

“Tourism industry is a major economic driver and job generator for the country. Definitely, its closure will have an adverse impact on its locals who depend on the island’s tourism for their livelihood,” Angara stressed.

BORACAY DENR
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