Restoration work will soon begin on Boracay’s Wetland No. 6, also known as “Dead Forest,” after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had successfully recovered the area from illegal occupants.

The DENR was able to clear the 8.5-hectare wetland located at Barangay Manoc-Manoc of illegal structures, whose occupants—31 families belonging to the Tumandok tribe—will be transferring to lands awarded to them by the government.

“That’s hitting two birds with one stone,” said DENR Director Natividad Bernardino, who serves as general manager of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG).

Bernardino said the recovery of Wetland No. 6 is in compliance with Executive Order (EO) 53 that created the DENR-led Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) to reverse the degradation of the world-famous resort island.

In that EO issued by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in 2018, the DENR is tasked, among others, to relocate and demolish all establishments and structures encroaching on forestlands, wetlands and other water bodies in Boracay.

At the same time, Bernardino said the planned rehabilitation of the wetland paved the way for the original settlers of the island to get their rightful share of Boracay lands.

“This is also a fulfillment on the policy directive of the President to distribute lands to the indigenous peoples and natives of Boracay,” Bernardino said.

On July 28, a total of 31 Tumandok families formally transferred to lands covered by Certificates of Land Ownership Award or CLOAs issued to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform last March.

The DENR donated timber from trees felled by Typhoon Ursula last December for the construction of their houses. These families will also be provided with water and sewerage facilities by the Boracay Island Water Company.

The restoration of Wetland No. 6 will be undertaken by the Lucio Tan-controlled water concessionaire Boracay Tubi System Inc., in accordance with the Boracay Action Plan being implemented by the BIARMG.

DENR Secretary and BIATF Chair Roy A. Cimatu had earlier said that of the nine Boracay wetlands identified for rehabilitation, five have been adopted by private companies for a period of three to five years as part of their corporate social responsibility programs.

Wetlands are considered to be one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems as they are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. They also help reduce soil erosion, retain sediments, absorb nutrients, store water to minimize the impacts of floods and droughts, and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Prior to rehabilitation, Boracay wetlands were contributing to pollution of the island’s waters and had been threats to health and safety of residents and tourists.

Last year, Wetland No. 4 located in Central Boracay was also successfully recovered by the DENR and converted into a linear park by the Aboitiz Group.

The one-hectare lagoon situated right across D’Mall, one of the busiest areas on the island, is now called Balabag Wetland Park. It has plaza and perimeter boardwalk, and is adorned with plants and trees. ###