MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) disputed reports that a mountain in Boracay is being flattened during the island’s 6-month closure.
In an interview with Rappler on Wednesday, May 16, DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones said that leveling activities in the area started even prior to the closure.
“Yesterday, may pumunta doon [na DENR officers] sa lugar ng Ecoville. Wala naman [activities], one month na. May nakita kaming backhoe doon, pero disassembled, nakakalas eh,” Leones said. (DENR officers went to Ecoville yesterday. There have been no activities there for a month now. We found a backhoe there, but it was disassembled).
“Medyo ‘fake news.’ ‘Yung nakalagay sa Facebook na ongoing [iyong flattening], kaya nataranta kami. Ang pakiusap lang din namin sana naman medyo accurate din ang information,” Leones added.
(It’s fake news. The Facebook post stated that the flattening was ongoing, so we panicked. We appeal to the public to please report only accurate information).
On Tuesday, May 15, social media users identifying themselves as residents of Barangay Yapak posted photos and videos showing the clearing and leveling of a mountain near Boracay Ecovillage Resort and Convention Center.
Leones said that a “subdivision” was indeed being constructed in the area just before the closure was in effect.
He said residents might have thought the road widening project near the area was related to the mountain leveling that had already stopped.
Meanwhile, some Boracay residents also backed DENR’s statement, saying that activities on the mountain in Yapak village in Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan, had been going on prior to the closure. (LIST: Planned developments in Boracay)
According to a resident who refused to be named, the Manny Villar group Vista Land had started construction activities for its project Costa Vista Boracay, a 6-building, mid-rise condominium property in Punta Bunga, Barangay Yapak.
However, the planned development may not push through. Leones said the agency is still assessing if Boracay’s carrying capacity and landscape can still handle such developments.
In an earlier statement, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said that he had ordered a moratrium on the issuance of DENR permits, such as Environmental Compliance Certificates. Tree cutting, except those relating to the ongoing road widening projects, have been banned.
Boracay Island was officially closed from tourists starting April 26. President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the island closed due to its environmental problems. (READ: INSIDE STORY: How Duterte decided on Boracay closure)
Rehabilitation efforts in the island will be focused on 5 key areas: sewerage rehabilitation; waste management; forestlands and easement recovery and alienable and disposable land management; road and transport; and biodiversity conservation. – Rappler.com