SENATOR Cynthia A. Villar came under attack Thursday after report said a mountain on Boracay Island was being leveled without a permit for a resort owned by the senator’s family.
Liberal Party vice president Erin Tañada criticized Villar, who was quoted as saying: “There’s no mountain. It’s a titled land. I’ve seen the place, [that report] is exaggerated. You know, if it’s a titled land, what’s wrong with it if we [develop it as a] joint venture?”
But Tañada said the point was not who owned the land.
“The point is not whether you own a title for the land or not. The point is that Boracay was closed, purportedly, to reboot the environment in the area,” Tañada said.
With the closure of Boracay, he said, many residents lost their livelihood.
“So many of our countrymen swallowed this bitter pill—the illegalities of it notwithstanding—because of its pretext: That the environment was suffering, and we need to clean it up,” he said.
In a statement, the chief legal counsel of Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc., a company owned by the Villars, said they have complied with all applicable laws and regulations and obtained all the needed permits and licenses in connection with their development project in Boracay.
As early as February this year, said Ma. Nalen SJ. Rosero, they slowed down development work and had accordingly reduced the amount of equipment and the number of workers in the area.
Significantly, she said the images appearing in the published articles on the issue do not pertain to their project site. She said the area subject of Vista Land’s development was a developed resort with existing facilities.
“Moreover, it is our policy to respect and preserve the natural topography of the land. To do so is not only structurally sound but more importantly, environmentally friendly,” she said.
“We wish to assure the public that we are fully supportive of the government’s efforts to rehabilitate Boracay,” Rosero added.
Earlier, Rowen Aguirre, executive assistant on Boracay Affairs of Malay municipality, told CNN Philippines that Costa Vista lacks some necessary permits and the local government had ordered it to stop work on the project.
Costa Vista is a residential condominium development with five high-rise towers and is owned by the Villar family.
Despite the stop order, a video taken on May 11 and posted on social media allegedly shows ongoing ground work on the resort, CNN reported. Reports also noted that trees on the mountain were being cleared.
Residents criticized the tearing down of the mountain in Barangay Yapak despite the closure of the island for environmental rehabilitation.
In a statement, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said he was “deeply bothered by such acts of total disregard of the government’s effort to rehabilitate Boracay,” but said reports from their field office showed that the flattening of the mountain was done before Boracay was closed, and has since stopped.
“To be clear to all that we mean business in the enforcement of environmental laws, rules and regulations, I have ordered, with the concurrrence of the Boracay inter-agency task force, a total stoppage of all constructions of any kind effective immediately,” he said.
“I have also ordered a moratorium on the issuance of DENR permits, including but not limited to Environmental Compliance Certificate, tree cutting permit, except those relating to on-going road widening project by DPWH, and other licenses.”