BORACAY, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) deployed a mission team on Thursday, February 22, to rehabilitate and restore Boracay Island.
The task force is made up of 120 employees from DENR's regional offices and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), according to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
The mission to save Boracay, Cimatu said, was set up after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shut down the famous island in Malay, Aklan.
“They said it was an impossible mission. But DENR says we can do it as per instruction of the President,” Cimatu said during the send-off ceremony in Nabas, Aklan.
The environment secretary said the DENR teams will be joined by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the 12th Infantry Battalion.
“We will do our very best for the next 6 months to accomplish the mission. I know that we will and we can do it. Kaya natin to save Boracay (We can save Boracay),” he stressed.
Neutralizing environmental enemies
Cimatu, a retired Army general and former envoy for refugees and OFWs, also urged the Save Boracay mission team to neutralize the natural enemies of the environment, namely violations and violators of environmental laws and local ordinances in Boracay.
Cimatu earlier told DENR employees, “The enemies are there. Sewage, basura (garbage), mga occupants pumasok sa timberlands (occupants encroaching on the timberlands). We will neutralize them,”
“Be courteous and be professional in dealing with the civilians. You are doing these for their own good, for the people of Boracay and Aklan,” he added.
Looking into Boracay's problems
A command center has been established by DENR for the mission teams to report their accomplishments in Boracay.
The teams will be assisted by Metro Boracay Task Force, Boracay Tourist Assistance Center and Task Group-Boracay personnel to enforce environmental laws.
Cimatu said DENR teams will also implement the 25+5 easement between buildings and the shore. This mandatory salvage or easement zone area – 25 meters plus 5 meters – is measured from the high tide mark.
Cimatu said, "Pag may mga buildings na lagpas, ipapademolish natin (If buildings go past the easement area, we'll have them demolished)."
He added, “We will look into the problems, tulad ng tubig na naggagaling sa mga resorts at hotels na hindi nakakonekta sa sewerage... hanapin natin yun, ang mga violators sa Philippine Clean Water Act."
(We'll look into the problems, such as water coming from resorts and hotels that aren't connected to sewerage... we'll find them, the violators of the Philippine Clean Water Act)
As of February 21, DENR already served 153 show cause orders out of 842 to illegal occupants of forestlands. Cimatu said the occupants encroached in timberland areas, violating Section 69 of Presidential Degree 705, or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines
Meanwhile, the state of emergency due to ecological crisis, as proposed by the Department of Tourism (DoT) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), has not yet been finalized. – Rappler.com