Cimatu: DENR to reclaim ‘missing’ Boracay wetlands

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will reclaim four wetlands encroached by business establishments and illegal settlers in Boracay, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu assured on Friday.

Cimatu made the assurance during the public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by Senator Cynthia Villar, which was held at a resort in the pollution-challenged island paradise.

“They (wetlands) need to be restored because they act as catchment during the rainy days and they prevent flooding,” Cimatu told the committee.

Wetlands are the link between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Wetlands are important because they protect and improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitats, store floodwaters and maintain surface water flow during dry periods.

Cimatu noted that there actually a total of nine wetlands in Boracay, based on an old map of the island.

But an investigation by the DENR’s National Task Force Boracay (NTFB) revealed that four of these wetlands remain to be accounted for, he added.

The “missing” wetlands, he said, are now occupied by a mall, a resort hotel and around 100 illegal settlers, who contribute to water pollution in the island.

He said the DENR has already issued notices of violation (NOVs), cease and desist orders and demolition notices to these “encroachers.”

“We have advised them to self-demolish. We will reclaim all nine wetlands,” Cimatu promised.

In the same hearing, Cimatu said he plans to revive the Community and Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Boracay, which was abolished as a result of the government’s rationalization plan in 2014.

Cimatu said he was surprised to learn that the DENR has no office in Boracay.

According to the DENR chief, the abolition of the CENRO Boracay posed a problem on the management of the island in terms of compliance to environmental laws.

“The weakest link of the DENR is enforcement of environmental laws,” Cimatu said.

As of February 26, the DENR had already issued 207 NOVs to establishments found violating environmental laws.

NOVs were issued to 116 establishments for violating Republic Act No. 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act; 77 for violation of RA 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act; five (5) for violation of both laws; and nine (9) for those operating without a valid environmental compliance certificate (ECC), which is required under Presidential Decree No. 1586 or the Environment Impact Statement System.

The NTFB reported that out of the 578 establishments surveyed and inspected, 383 are connected to the sewage line of the island’s water and sewage system providers and 195 are not.

A total of 382 are connected to the Boracay Island Water Corp. (BIWC) sewer line and one to the Boracay Tubi System Inc.

Meanwhile, Cimatu has directed the BIWC to repair and rehabilitate its wastewater treatment plants (WTP) in barangays Manoc-Manoc and Balabag.

The Balabag WTP has exceeded capacity and caused wastewater to leak from its burst pipes. The leak has been found to be the source of the foul odor in some parts of the barangay. ###