MANILA, Philippines – Authorities started demolishing several parts of the posh West Cove Resort in Boracay on Thursday, after the structures were deemed in violation of environmental protection laws.
The demolition pushed through after a survey conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed that the resort was built on a restricted area.
The DENR said resort owner Crisostomo Aquino violated the Forest Land Agreement for Tourism approved by the agency during the time of former Environment Secretary Lito Atienza.
Based on the agreement, the resort was allowed to use the area for tourism purposes for 25 years provided the structures are built within a 998-square meter land area.
The DENR, however, found that the resort's facilities extended to more than a thousand square meters.
“Definitely mayroong sumobra diyan. Kaya nga ang prino-proteksyonan para maging pantay ay ang 998 square meters, iyon lang ang aming pakialam,” said Ivene Reyes, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer in Aklan.
Aside from this, the resort allegedly committed other violations including the non-compliance of building and business permits and failure to secure an environmental compliance certificate from the DENR.
There was a bit of tension before the clearing operation as Aquino tried to convince Malay Mayor John Yap not to proceed with the demolition, saying he has filed for a permit at the DENR central office.
Aquino claimed Yap had promised him that the mayor will issue a business permit for West Cove.
Yap, however, denied this.
“Wala akong ipinangako na maibibigay ko ang business permit. Ang sabi ko huwag mong dagdagan then aayusin natin ang problema mo,” the mayor told Aquino.
Aquino later apologized to Mayor Yap and expressed dismay that his case was allegedly neglected by the DENR.
“Muli akong humihingi ng paumanhin kay Mayor dahil sa tigas ng ulo ko, umasa talaga ako sa hawak kong papel na finile ko sa DENR. Eh ngayon naghuhugas kamay na sila,” he said.
Meanwhile, the DENR said clearing the area may take weeks as 70% of the resort needs to be demolished.
The West Cove resort was constructed in 2006 for P160 million.
However, authorities only discovered that the resort had no ECC in 2009.
West Cove was also known as the “Pacquiao resort” following reports that Filipino boxing champ Manny Pacquiao is one of its owners.
Pacquiao, however, has denied that he owns the resort but admitted that he is a friend of Aquino. -- Reports from Regi Adosto and Jennifer Garcia, ABS-CBN News Iloilo