MANILA, Philippines - It was former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's environment chief Jose “Lito” Atienza Jr. who issued a lease agreement for the construction of the West Cove Hotel in Boracay Island, which was recently closed down by the local government.
In an interview with radio dzMM, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary (DENR) Ramon Paje recalled issuing in 2008 an order directing a halt to the processing of permits in the entire island until a survey of the area has been done. He was then undersecretary.
The order was in view of the decision of the Supreme Court during that same year, which vested on the State ownership over the entire Boracay Island.
This also means that all establishments will have to go through the proper titling process to acquire what has been opened to them by the government as alienable or disposable.
Paje said it was only right for the local government of Malay, Aklan to order the closure of the so-called Pacman Resort because it does not have a building permit.
He said an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) is needed before a building permit is issued. He said he has to check whether the so-called Pacman Resort has an ECC.
He explained that before an ECC is issued, a forest land use agreement for tourism purposes is acquired.
“That was probably what was given, which allows a firm to lease the area for 25 years. After that, you have to have a plan of development. The ECC is then given for the construction and development,” he explained.
West Cove Hotel is owned by Crisostomo Aquino, People’s Champ Manny Pacquiao’s close friend.
The local government of Malay questioned West Cove Hotel’s “off-shore” development and the erection of concrete structures on the coves and rocks, which supposedly imperil the fragile ecosystem in the resort island.