PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte threatened on Tuesday to charge local officials of Boracay for neglect of duty for the environmental disaster in one of the worlds’ most popular beach resorts.
The President said he was holding the local government and Boracay residents responsible for being “overzealous” with development, allowing structures to be built, some of them near the beach without proper sewage and water treatment facilities.
“I will charge you for serious neglect of duty for making Boracay a fishpond or a sewer pool,” he said.
“There will be a time that no more foreigners will go there.”
“It’s a shame that Boracay, which has repeatedly been recognized by prestigious travel magazines as the world’s most beautiful island, may yet end up a paradise lost if water contamination continues,” the president added.
During his speech in Cebu, Duterte slammed Boracay local officials and business executives for building structures overlapping the coastlines and already reaching the water which is not really allowed.
“You allowed buildings constructed without proper sewer or sewerage. That is yours. You created a disaster there,” he said.
Duterte has earlier ordered DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to clean Boracay in six months or close it down.
“They say it earns millions. The structures are worth billions. But I don’t give a shit. Either they will clean it up or I will close it permanently,” Duterte added.
As this developed, Cimatu also warned establishments which are polluting Boracay to “shape up or face closure.”
He gave commercial establishments two months to stop the release of untreated waste water and sewage into the waters of the world-famous island and to adopt other remedial and corrective measures.
Two months have been given to the business operators to either connect to the sewage treatment plant of the Boracay Island Water Co. or install their own wastewater treatment facilities.
“The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is giving them two months to comply with the law. Otherwise, we will close them,” the agency chief said.
Duterte earlier directed Cimatu to find ways to end problems besetting Boracay, describing the islands as a “cesspool.”
He gave Cimatu six months to clean up Boracay, “or else the entire island will be shut down.”
According to Cimatu, around 50 to 60 percent of all establishments in Boracay are compliant to Republic Act No. 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.
“All the rest direct their pipes to the canals which drain to the sea,” he said.
He invoked Republic Act 9275 mandating establishments and households to dispose their septic wastes to a treatment facility.
A notice of violation will soon be issued to establishments that are illegally connected or are not connected at all to the sewage treatment plant, he said.
“We will give these establishments three to five days to respond. Otherwise, we will cut their water connections,” he cautioned.
Apart from the sewage problem, Cimatu said the DENR will also go after resort owners who have constructed buildings within areas classified as forestlands.
“Forestlands are no-build zones. What they have done is against the law,” he said, referring to Presidential Decree No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.
The DENR had already issued a directive that no new environmental compliance certificates or ECC will be issued in Boracay to prevent the construction of new buildings there.
“For me, the law is the law. This is a different battle but this is our chance to rehabilitate Boracay. Once all these problems are fixed, it will be a better Boracay,” Cimatu said.
At yesterday’s launch of the Green Film Festival at Cinema 2 of the SM North-Edsa in Quezon City, Cimatu met college and high school students and representatives of the Commission on Higher Education and SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings Inc.
In accordance with his mission to clean up Boracay, Cimatu also inspected the waste water treatment system of the SM North Edsa to give him an idea on how to properly implement a proper waste water treatment facility in the island.
He asked SM North Edsa how many comfort rooms does it have, noting that it has over 40 clusters with waste water facility treating waste water before going to the lines of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and its two water concessionaires [for further processing.