DENR ready to face legal challenges with Boracay closure
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is not discounting the possibility of facing legal challenges with the closure of Boracay Island in Aklan to tourists for six months.
But DENR expressed readiness should cases be filed by those who would be adversely affected by the closure.
"It is within their right to seek redress from courts, but we always emphasize to them that what we are doing in Boracay will not only benefit the island, but the whole country as well," said DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones.
He reiterated the closure would just be temporary. "If they will file (cases), we will be facing them in the court," he said.
During the six-month closure, which will start on April 26, Leones said the government has to address the problems on drainage and sewerage, solid waste, forest land and easement recovery, road and transport, and biodiversity conservation, wetlands rehabilitation and geohazard management.
Leones said it is difficult to implement a phase by phase closure of the island because the problem affects the entire island.
For instance, he cited the garbage problem where Boracay produces around 90,000 to 115,000 tons per day and not all are being hauled daily.
He said a meeting with all stakeholders will be held on April 17 to discuss a plan in undertaking the rehabilitation of the island.
"Six months is the maximum period. We can shorten the closure depending on the progress of the rehabilitation efforts done in Boracay," the official said.
Regarding reports that a Chinese-owned casino will be constructed in Boracay, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said his office has not received any application.
But personally, he said he did not want the $500-million casino to be built in Boracay.
"My personal (position), no. There are other places where it could go. Why should it be placed there," he said.
Cimatu said he is waiting for the result of a study to determine the carrying capacity of the island.
He said he expects the result by April 24.
In a press briefing in Malacanang on Thursday, the Boracay interagency task force said once the island is closed starting April 26, no tourists, whether local or foreigners, would be allowed.
Only the residents of the island could enter Boracay.
"So, there will be a guideline that we will issue soon. What will happen is that, this will be implemented by the Philippine National Police and if the president will declare a state of calamity, we may also get as a complimentary support from the Armed Forces," said Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III. Celerina Monte/DMS