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Lawmakers want charges filed vs local officials, firms over Boracay mess

March 7, 2018

Three days after they began their probe, senators on Sunday said that they want to file criminal charges against local officials and business owners liable for the pollution in the famous Boracay island resort.

According to their onsite hearing last Friday, Senators Cynthia Villar and Loren Legarda said it was obvious that there were violations of environmental laws, and government officials failed to impose it as they were unable to maintain a clean environment in Boracay.

Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment, said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should take legal action against those responsible for the environmental humiliation of the area.

During the Senate hearing, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said that five out of nine wetlands in Boracay have been occupied by establishments which causes floods to worsen in the island.

“There used to be nine wet lands in the island and now we can only account for four. And there are 100 informal settlers in the wet lands,” Cimatu said.

Villar stressed that local executives did not demand business applicants to have an environmental clearance from the DENR. She added that environmental officials may have been neglectful in approving the construction of resorts and hotel in the White Beach.

Citing the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law, Legarda said that these environmental regulations are not hard to comply with and good for business.

“The problem in Boracay is also the problem of many ecotourism areas and other communities in the country, which is why the government must strictly enforce environmental laws, while residents and business establishments should also comply with our laws,” Legarda, vice chair committee, said.

Villar suggested that local government and concerned national agencies such as the DENR and the Department of Tourism (DOT) should co-manage the famous tourist destinations in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Legarda proposed a joint undertaking by the DENR, DILG, and the DOT along with the Office of the Ombudsman for the filling of charges against local government units that do not comply with environmental laws. She added that Boracay must have sewerage and septage systems.

The DENR estimated that about 17.5 million liters of wastewater is generated in Boracay every day, while only about half of this is treated properly. The other half is discharged untreated.

Around 30 to 40 percent of the untreated wastewater comes from private houses while the rest are from commercial establishments.

The joint probe into the environmental woes hounding the world-famous White Beach consisted of Senate panels, committees on environment and natural resources, tourism, local government, and finance.

Villar said that she wanted to have the report of the government agencies and list of compliant and non-compliant business establishments as the senators will try to determine whether Boracay should be shut down or allowed to continue its operation.

Calling it a “cesspool,” President Rodrigo Duterte earlier threatened to close the popular tourist destination if the environmental problems in the area will not be addressed in six months.

Source: Canadian Inquirer