The Aboitiz group and the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corp. (EDC) are joining government efforts to rehabilitate the pollution-challenged Boracay Island by adopting two of its nine wetlands.

The two companies signed on Monday a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in simple rites held at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. (AEV) Chief Operating Officer Sabin Aboitiz and Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (AFI) Head Maribeth Marasigan signed for the adoption of Wetland No. 4.

Energy Development Corporation president and Chief Operating Officer Ricardo Tantoco and EDC Senior Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility and Watershed Management Atty. Allan Barcena, signed on behalf of EDC for Wetland No. 2.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu expressed confidence the partnership with Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV) and EDC would hasten and sustain the rehabilitation of Boracay wetlands, which serve a variety of ecological services that are important to the island’s overall well-being.

“It will not be an easy job for government to do alone, which is why we thank the private sector for agreeing to undertake the task at practically no cost to the government,” Cimatu said.

The AEV entered the agreement with the DENR through AFI, its social development arm.

The environment chief urged the adopters not to put up company signs that are commercial or promotional in nature. “We will limit such signs to those that are informative and educational to help the public appreciate wetlands more,” he said.

According to Cimatu, the rehabilitation of the wetlands will be undertaken in phases that are expected to go beyond the island’s scheduled reopening in October.

The closure period, he said, would allow the DENR and the adopters to lay the groundwork for the execution of the designs and programs for the rehabilitation.

Cimatu said each project will be different from each other and have its own character but both will highlight the importance wetlands.

AEV’s adoption of Wetland No. 4 will have three features: recreational, educational and experiential. Aboitiz said “with government’s support, the Boracay that we will co-create and leave to our children will be a community that is safe, empowered and sustainable.

On the other hand, Tantoco praised Cimatu for the leadership, tenacity, and resolve he has shown in the rehabilitation of the island. He said the EDC was thankful for its partnership with the Department to rescue wildlife tree species. He added that EDC’s adoption of the wetland was about “preserving the little we have for posterity” and it will continue its fight to save threatened tree species in the country.

Under the partnership, the two companies will be responsible for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of eco-engineered structures and facilities to enhance the ecotourism values of the wetlands.

They will assist the DENR in rehabilitation activities such as clearing operations, site preparation, wetlands profiling, and management planning, as well as through re-vegetation using appropriate species.

The companies will also support the DENR in mobilizing stakeholders, producing and distributing materials for public awareness, and conduct communication, education and public awareness activities to help sustain the conservation not only of the wetlands but of the entire island.

Progress reports on the rehabilitation efforts will be submitted periodically to the DENR.

For its part, the DENR will, among others, take the lead in clearing the wetlands of illegal structures and relocate affected dwellers accordingly.

The DENR will guide the companies in the information drive, and regularly monitor the accomplishments of the adopters.

The agency will also facilitate the processing of all licenses, certificates or permits that will be required of AEV and EDC to carry out their projects located in Barangay Balabag.

AEV, the holding company of the Aboitiz group with investments in power, banking and financial services, food, land and infrastructure, has agreed to adopt Wetland No. 4, a 0.99-hectare rectangular-shaped area located near D’Mall. The company’s proposed design was presented during the event..

EDC, on the other hand, will adopt Wetland No. 2, a 7.78-hectare swampland, under the company’s “Binhi” project on reforestation and biodiversity preservation.

The EDC is a Lopez-owned company engaged in exploration and development of geothermal and other renewable energy resources for power generation. It has partnered with the DENR in its National Greening Program and the Adopt-a-Wildlife-Species Program. ###