Boracay’s day of reckoning has finally come
I have been critical of President Duterte on certain issues, although I voted for him. However, I am not blind when he does something good for our country and people, such as his condemnation of Boracay turning into a “cesspool,” and giving Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu six months to fix the island’s environmental degradation or else he will close it down. No president has ever done it before with such determination in the past three decades. The day of reckoning has come at last!
On Dec. 10, 2012, I wrote to then President Benigno Aquino III warning him of the deteriorating situation in Boracay and even offering to be of assistance since I was chairman of Task Force Boracay that started the development and regulation of the country’s premier tourist destination in 1988. I warned P-Noy that Boracay’s decay and demise will be his “legacy of
ignominy” if he does not act. I did not receive any courtesy of a reply to the letter.
We started the implementation of the setback of structures from the highest tide watermark way back 30 years ago. (It was only 25 meters then.) When we were about to start the demolition, the oppositors were able to obtain a temporary restraining order from the Regional Trial Court in Kalibo. Obviously, a hometown decision against the national government. Later on, the same judge issued a preliminary injunction against the demolition when the oppositors filed a case against the Department of Tourism and even against the tourism secretary in his personal capacity. They were arrogant as if they own the island and even got a member of the provincial board of Aklan as their lawyer. We had to spend time attending court hearings and were the ones harassed in Kalibo before and after the hearings.
Cimatu has started the rehabilitation work by serving more than 200 notices of violations (NOVs) of environmental laws to business establishments. Amazing that the owners of establishments who violated the 30-meter setback from the waterline (highest tide) are even complaining about the NOVs posted in public with the tarpaulin signs. It is good that their guests would know that they are in violation so they will not be patronized. They are concerned about being embarrassed and yet they have committed the violations for the longest time. They have no shame!
Presidential Proclamation (PP) No. 1064 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the 30-meter road buffer provision was issued 12 years ago in 2006. Those who violated the provision of PP 1064 must suffer the consequences of their action since they know what they did was wrong. The comment of the head of the Boracay Foundation that its implementation is “unrealistic” is truly pathetic. It does not matter if hundreds of structures of business establishments will be demolished along the 7-kilometer main and side roads. They committed violations and the day of reckoning has finally come to them.
The vice mayor of Malay that has jurisdiction over Boracay Island was quoted as saying that “we will lose our land” with the implementation of the 30-meter road buffer provision of PP 1064. Is the vice mayor really that ignorant? What land is he talking about? There are no titles issued on the lands in the 1,032-hectare Boracay Island except on some 300 hectares on the northern part of the island that is far, far away from the main road near “long beach.” The land has not been declared as alienable and disposable (A&D), and thus cannot be titled.
As former solicitor general Frank Chavez wrote in 1988 on the status of the occupants of the land that only has tax declarations, they are merely “squatting” since these lands have not been classified as A&D.
I applaud President Duterte on the decisive action he has taken to save Boracay Island. And as always, I am willing to help in spite of our differences on issues with his administration.
RICARDO B. RAMOS, former chair, Task Force Boracay, firstname.lastname@example.org
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