DENR: 5 of 9 Boracay wetlands damaged; 4 to be reclaimed

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Based on a 2008 map, there were originally nine wetlands in Boracay Island, but environment officials could only account for four in 2018.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 3) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Friday it will reclaim four wetlands occupied by business establishments and illegal settlers on Boracay.

"We will try to reclaim, because they (wetlands) must be restored to act as the catchment during rainy days, and (they) prevent flooding," DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu told the Senate Environment Committee Friday.

Wetlands are land areas covered with water that may serve as catch basins for rainwater to avoid flooding.

They also act as water purification systems, provide shoreline stability, and serve as reservoirs of biodiversity. The DENR said "encroachment on, or loss of, wetlands can cause serious environmental damage."

Cimatu said based on a 2008 map of the island, there were originally nine wetlands but they could only account for four in 2018.

He added the five remaining wetlands have been wiped out by a mall, a resort hotel, and around 100 illegal settlers, who pollute the island's water supply. Some of the establishments operated without environmental compliance certificates and business permits.

When asked by Sen. Miguel Zubiri who is responsible for the illegally constructed settlements, Cimatu said, "It must be the local government."

Cimatu added the DENR already issued notices of violation, cease and desist orders, and demolition notices to the settlers.

"I want to get rid of these illegal settlers in the wetlands, I have to restore the wetlands," he said.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, the environment panel's chair, said it is the responsibility of the national government to put a stop to the destruction of Boracay.

Meanwhile, Sen.Loren Legarda asked the DENR Chief to submit names of local officials and former department officials involved in the construction of illegal settlements.

READ: Senate Environment Panel Chair Villar: Close only erring Boracay establishments

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said in a statement Saturday it has created a 12-man investigating team to inspect the former officials and private entities involved in Boracay's environmental issues.

"Saklaw ng imbestigasyon ang nakalipas na 10 taon mula 2008 hanggang 2018. Inaasahan natin na magsusumite sila ng komprehensibong report hinggil sa resulta ng kanilang pagsisiyasat sa lalong madaling panahon," he said.

[Translation: Covered in the investigation are the past 10 years from 2008 to 2018. We expect them to submit a comprehensive report based on the results of their studies.]

Boracay is one of the country's top tourists spots, with an estimated P56 billion in revenues in 2017. According to the DILG, more than 17,000 workers are stationed on the island.

READ: DILG eyes 6-month state of calamity in Boracay

However, the DILG has recently eyed declaring a state of calamity on the island, and a possible 60-day closure following President Rodrigo Duterte's order to clean up the world-famous tourist destination.