AKLAN, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reported that halfway into the rehabilitation of Boracay, 29 of the 885 illegal structures and occupants in the island's 268-hectare forest land had been demolished.
The DENR made the report before the hearing of the Senate committee on tourism in Manila on Monday, July 16.
The DENR is the lead agency in the Boracay inter-agency task force tasked to address the environmental woes of the island. It has prioritized the recovery of 4 of the 9 wetlands in Boracay as part of the ongoing rehabilitation.
In the wetlands, the DENR reported 5.29% accomplishment in demolishing 29 of 548 illegal structures.
The demolition numbers prompted Senator Nancy Binay, chairperson of the Senate tourism committee, to observe, "Medyo mabagal ang demolisyon (The demolition is rather slow)."
The agency also said it issued 180 show cause orders and 113 notices to vacate to illegal occupants in 37 hectares of wetlands.
The DENR explained that prior to any demolition, it has to provide a relocation site in mainland Malay for all those to be displaced.
The current pace of demolition seemed surprising as the process supposedly began even before President Rodrigo Duterte issued an official document as legal basis for his verbal orders to close the world-famous tourist destination for 6 months, or as early as late April. (WATCH: Demolitions on first day of Boracay shutdown)
During the hearing on Monday, the Senate panel also asked the DENR for an update on the study on the carrying capacity of the island, which the agency was supposed to release in May.
Dr Bighani Manipula, Assistant Director of the DENR's Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, said a technical consultant was tapped for the study, which would not only determine the carrying capacity of Boracay's bathing area, or the beach area, but also the island's "ecological carrying capacity."
Manipula said the results of the study would be ready by August.
Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu reported that the coliform level in the wetlands "ay medyo bumaba (went down a little)."
"The only way to clean Bulabog beach ay dapat malinis ang pinanggagalingan ng tubig sa wetlands (is to clean the water source in the wetlands)," Cimatu said.
He added that the rehabilitation of the wetlands would go on even after the island is reopened to tourists.
Cimatu also said the DENR has engaged companies to adopt and rehabilitate the wetlands in Boracay.
San Miguel Corporation, Cebu Pacific, Aboitiz Group, Energy Development Corporation and Lucio Tan Group have committed to help the DENR in restoring the wetlands, Cimatu said.
Boracay Island is expected to open on October 26, 6 months after it was closed to tourists on April 26. President Rodrigo Duterte placed the three barangays of Boracay under a state of calamity to give way to the cleanup and rehabilitation. – Rappler.com