Boracay sand disappearing, DENR chief says

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Apr 13 2012 06:30 PM | Updated as of Apr 14 2012 08:08 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Boracay's world-famous white sand beaches are disappearing because of development projects on the island, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje warned on Friday.

He told dzMM's Pasa Sais Trenta that resorts and other commercial establishments have entered the easement portion of the beach.

"It should be no-build zone. Ang proposal po namin, i-clear iyon. Kapag pumunta ka doon, mayroong mga tiangge-tiangge," he said. "Kung iyon ang masisira, iyun ang jewel ng Boracay, wala nang Boracay."

Paje added that some resorts have also built embankments to prevent seawater from entering their area.

"Mayroon na kaming nakitang areas doon na nagkakaroon na ng scouring. May mga portions doon na halos wala nang buhangin," he revealed.

He said many establishments also set up coffeeshops that are built on the so-called easement portion of the beach. "Iyung mga iba permanent, sementado."

Pacquiao and Boracay West Cove

He cited the Waling-waling resort and West Cove, which made headlines after they were linked to boxing superstar and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao has admitted helping a close friend secure papers for the controversial Boracay West Cove resort project.

Paje said West Cove gained a permit but only to develop 900 square meters of land.

"Latest na pinuntahan namin, 9,000 (square meters) na (developed)," he said. "In effect, wala siyang permit sa 8,000 more."

He said the local government has issued a demolition order on the West Cove project but the resort owner has reportedly sued the mayor.

"Ang sabi niya sa amin, kinasuhan siya," Paje said. "Nasa court na iyon."

Aquino forms group to tackle Boracay

The environment chief said President Benigno Aquino has expressed serious concern about the issue.

"Nag-create siya ng grupo, si (Tourism Secretary) Ramon Jimenez, ako, si (Interior Secretary) Jesse Robredo at DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima. Sinama namin si Health Secretary Enrique Ona."

Paje said said the committee is making recommendations to the President regarding solutions to the problems in Boracay and Baguio City.

"Mayroon akong initial recommendation.  Sa Boracay, we are recommending to create a separate office na supposedly para authority pero kailangan ng batas doon. Gusto namin mag-create ng office muna," he said.

"Ang gusto ni Presidente, makita is you have the real governance sa Boracay," he added.

No build zone

He said because the Supreme Court has already made rulings in similar cases, the committee has recommended that the easement portion area of the 4-kilometer white sand beach in Boracay be enforced.

"Walang Boracay kung wala iyung white sand," Paje said. "Ang objective natin is to protect that. Kailangan, no build zone."

"The commitee is determined. If we cannot do this in a small island like Boracay, wala na tayong magagawa sa iba pang malalaking lugar. We really have to put discipline there," he said.

"Ang instruction sa akin, make sure kapag inimplement niyo iyan, isama ninyo si [Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse] Robredo atsaka iyung pulis," he said. "Ayaw natin na magiging lip service. Gustong ipatupad talaga."

Land use plan not implemented

He said all resort development projects in Boracay have temporarily stopped pending the full implementation of the committee's recommendations.

"May land use plan na iyan, 2008, nabuo na ng Department of Tourism, kaso hindi maimplement dahil kinukulang sa political will," he said.

"The President is serious about it. Ang sabi, ipatupad iyan," he said.