Boracay task force to decide on plea over demolition of structures breaking easement rule

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 03 2020 05:20 AM

Boracay task force to decide on plea over demolition of structures breaking easement rule 1
A resident wearing a face mask walk along a beach in Boracay island on Thursday, the first day of the opening of the island to tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic. AFP/File

MANILA - The Boracay inter-agency task force (BIATF) will soon decide on a plea made by the island's commercial establishment operators and local residents for a moratorium on the demolition of structures sitting within the island’s “25 + 5 meter” easement rule and forest lands. 

Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu on Wednesday said 9 establishments were subject of a National Bureau of Investigation and BIATF joint operation for allegedly occupying protected forest lands, violating the Revised Forestry Code and the Philippine Water Code.

“While we understand really the pandemic, while we understand really their situation, we will now have to balance enforcement, at the same time, also the way we have to treat these people kasi wala naman siguro sila munang mapupuntahan," Cimatu said.

Details of these 9 establishments have not been given to the media. 

The NBI said warrantless arrests were made, and appropriate charges filed before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, though the names of respondents were not made available. 

The BIATF -- chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and vice-chaired by the Department of Tourism and Department of the Interior and Local Government -- met in Aklan Wednesday to discuss preparations for the expected arrival in the Philippines of balikbayans and their families beginning December 7. 

The IATF-Emerging Infectious Diseases has allowed visa-free entry of balikbayans, their foreign spouses and children. Former Filipino citizens, their spouses and children are also subject to pre-booked flights and COVID-19 testing upon arrival at the airport.

Cimatu said the pandemic would be factored in, as the BIATF continues to deliberate on the demolition stay plea. 

Out of 339 structures, 249 have complied with the easement rule, which puts compliance at 73 percent, according to the BIATF. 

BORACAY COLIFORM LEVEL

Meanwhile, Cimatu said Boracay recorded its lowest coliform level in November at 6.8 "most probable number per milliliter."

The samples were taken from ambient stations at New Coast Boracay, Movenpick, Steve’s Cliff, and Front Beach Grotto, according to the environment chief. 

He assured government efforts to rehabilitate the island -- internationally popular for its white, powdery sand -- would continue, including recovering areas encroached by illegal structures. 

“In July, we have recovered wetland No. 6 in Barangay Manoc-manoc from its illegal occupants. Wetlands are important to the island because these help reduce soil erosion and store water to minimize the impact of flooding," Cimatu said.

“Of the 9 wetlands, we have now recovered 5 — these are wetlands Nos. 2 , 3, 4, 6 and 8.”

President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the island closed to local and foreign tourists from April 26 to October 26, 2018, after calling it a “cesspool” at a business forum. 

Prior to its closure, coliform level in Boracay was in the thousands or even millions, Cimatu had said.

The standard coliform level is 100 MPN/100 milliliter.

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