Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Tuesday vowed to recover the missing wetlands in Aklan’s Boracay Island.
At least four of the nine existing wetlands of Boracay make up the priority recovery list of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources since they contribute to the pollution to the beach waters.
Cimatu said residential structures and commercial buildings sit on these four wetlands.
The wastes generated from these structures figure in the wetlands and, in turn, are transferred to the main beach when high tide occurs.
“We have to find a place for them to be relocated. We will recover the wetlands because this is like the kidneys of the island. But before we ask them to leave the wetlands, of course, we have to find a relocation site for them. This is one of the things that we are going to do after the six-month closure,” Cimatu said.
According to the DENR, one of the remaining wetlands sits inside a titled property while another has been turned into a lagoon, while another one is in a forest.
Two others are within residential communities.
The DENR chief said he was looking for a good relocation site for the residents who would be uprooted from their houses situated in either one of the nine wetlands of Boracay.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay due to environmental woes to pave the way for the “healing” of the island from the excesses of unbridled tourism ranging from its erratic sewerage systems to the illegal settlers in its wetlands, considered the “kidneys” of the island.
On Monday, Duterte reiterated his plan to declare the “entire” Boracay Island as land reform area after its rehabilitation.
“I do not mean to lord it over but as I have promised, I will declare the entire island a land reform area,” Duterte said in a speech during the signing of the Ease of Doing Business Act in Malacañang.
Duterte said only the coastal area would be used by tourists while the land area would be given back to the natives of the island.
“I will leave that option to you to preserve the coastal area. I have no interest there. I will just convey to you now that my predilection if you want to call it, is to declare it a land reform area,” he said.
The President said he has no idea why Boracay became commercial when in fact, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a proclamation in 2006, classifying the island into forest land and agricultural land.
In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld Arroyo’s proclamation, saying the petition had no legal basis to say that private entity could own land in Boracay.
“I have no idea why that part became commercial. I will leave it up to you decide. I said, carve out a few meters from the coastal. The (sea) waters, I will not touch on that,” he said.
Duterte has directed the Department of Agrarian Reform to start working on his plan to declare the island a land reform area.
The inter-agency task force has started the cleanup and rehabilitation of the 1,028-hectare island.
Early this year, Duterte described Boracay as a “cesspool” due to its sewage and garbage problem, prompting him to order a six-month closure to rehabilitate the island which started last April 26.