By Tara Yap
Iloilo City — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has begun going after environmental violators at Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan province.
The DENR launched the crackdown after President Duterte ordered the clean-up of the world-famous resort island, which he described as a “cesspool.”
DENR Western Visayas Regional Director Jim Sampulna told Manila Bulletin that DENR’s Environment Management Bureau (EMB) has issued Notices of Violation to more than 50 establishments since Wednesday.
The unnamed hotels, resorts and restaurants are in the list of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, who recommended the closure of 300 establishments.
DENR clarified that notices do not mean immediate closure, and Sampulna assured due process will be observed.
An establishment will be shut down only “when the violations are not corrected,” Sampulna explained.
Majority of the establishments were given a warning for illegally dumping wastewater into the sea. The practice was discovered when investigating teams found drainpipes connected to the storm drainage, which was meant to only hold rainwater.
Instead of dumping untreated wastewater into the sea, the establishments are supposed to connect to the sewage systems of Boracay Tubi System Inc. or Boracay Island Water Company.
Over the past several years, the storm drains have been clogged up by the wastewater, worsening the flooding in the island during the rainy season and contributing to water pollution.
DENR assured however that Boracay’s waters are still safe for swimming.
Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores has pledged P5 million to help in the DENR’s clean-up drive.
Last Wednesday, senators urged the DENR to speed up the rehabilitation of Boracay so as not to hamper the country’s tourism efforts.
“We have to get our acts together. Boracay attracts two million tourists every year and brings in more than P50 billion in annual revenues. It’s no less named as world’s best island,” Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said.
“Let’s not waste this chance just because there are some establishments not following government regulations,” Angara said.
He said Boracay’s closure is possible especially if its environmental issues continue to escalate. To prevent this, local government agencies and officials must strictly implement environmental laws and ordinances, and penalize erring establishments.
Senator Nancy Binay suggested that the DENR and the municipality of Malay form a citizens’ team that will act as an oversight committee to monitor and maintain the beauty of Boracay.
“It’s a serious issue. Boracay has been in an abusive relationship with humans. It’s about time for her to say ‘stop!’” Binay said.
She said the formation of long-term teams composed of members of peoples’, non-government, and civic organizations, marine scientists, as well as other stakeholders can add value to the work of the task force assigned to clean up the island resort.
“Part of the job of this citizens’ team is to ensure that tourists and locals are complying and maintaining the highest environmental standards in Boracay,” Binay said.
International tourist publications and websites consistently rank Boracay as among the best resort islands in the world. (With Hannah L. Torregoza)