MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the Province of Aklan, the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cease and desist from implementing phase 1 of its reclamation project in Barangay Caticlan, Municipality of Malay, Aklan intended for port expansion and commercial purposes.
In a 68-page unanimous en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro dated June 26, the high court issued a writ of continuing mandamus in favor of the Boracay Foundation, Inc.
The high court pointed out that the P260 million project covered by Environmental Compliance Certification (ECC)-R6-1003-096-7100 being questioned by petitioner Boracay Foundation, Inc. involves the reclamation of land "five times the size of the original reclaimed land" which includes not only the expansion of the jetty port but the putting up of a commercial building, a health and wellness center, and parking, among others. The high court noted the failure of the provincial government to conduct "updated and more comprehensive studies" on the environmental impact of these new structures.
The high court said the impact of the 2.64-hectare reclamation and construction project on the Boracay side of the island "cannot be ignored."
"This becomes imperative because of the significant contributions of Boracay's white-sand beach to the country's tourism trade, which requires respondent province to proceed with utmost caution in implementing projects within this vicinity... [i]t is clear that both petitioner and respondent province are interested in the promotion of tourism in Boracay and the protection of the environment, lest they kill the proverbial hen that lays the golden egg..." the decision read.
The high court ordered the DENR to complete its study on the project's environmental impact within a non-extendible period of three months and, if necessary, to require the provincial government to address environmental issues raised by the petitioner and submit the "correct EIA (environmental impact assessment) report as required by the project's specifications."
The Court also stressed that "prior consultations and prior approval are required by law to have been conducted and secured by" the provincial government.
The high court also directed the DENR to review its approval of the project as a "mere expansion" of the jetty port in Caticlan, instead of classifying it as a "new project," and convince the Court why the ECC issued for the project should not be cancelled.
The provincial government, meantime, was ordered to fully cooperate with the DENR, secure approvals from the various local governments in the province, and hold consultations with stakeholders.
The original project dubbed "Aklan Beach Zone Restoration and Protection Marina Development Project" was intended to cover 40 hectares in the areas adjacent to the jetty port at Barangay Caticlan and Manoc-manoc. However, the province waived its plan to pursue the remainder of the project.