Senators on Friday, March 16, expressed their dismay over the recommendation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Tourism (DoT) for a one-year total closure of Boracay Island for rehabilitation.
“A one-year total closure may not be the best solution for the island and its locals,” said Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay in a statement, noting that the three government agencies seemed unaware of the potential job losses their decision would result.
“A phase-by-phase rehabilitation where government can strictly enforce the law and at the same time implement the needed corrective measures could be the better option for Boracay,” she added.
Ms. Binay, who chairs the Senate committee on tourism, also noted that the government did not mention any concrete plans for stakeholders that could be possibly displaced from the recommendation
“We want the island to breathe the same way we want the people of Boracay to live,” she said.
For his part, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs, offered alternative measures to solve the environmental problems in the country’s top tourist destination.
He said the government could consider shutting down erring business establishments only and filing administrative cases against negligent local officials.
“A complete shutdown of the island will displace 30,000 direct and indirect workers who are considered low-skilled workers. Poverty and hunger will also worsen if unemployment will rise,” Mr. Gatchalian said.
For his part, Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development, warned that the full closure may cripple the tourism industry.
He urged the national government to simply ensure the compliance of business establishments with environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Solid Waste Management Act.
DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has said the total closure of the island from tourism would give them the “ample time” to implement measures restoring and sustaining the tourist destination.
Meanwhile, the management of D’Mall of Boracay belied allegations that its establishment was built on wetlands, noting that its location was “composite of lands that were classified as Commercial, Agricultural, Residential and Cocal.”
It also clarified that the mangrove and swamp area identified as wetlands is located in a lake across the Boracay road from D’Mall.
“It’s imperative that our establishments in Boracay conduct business in a manner that’s environmentally sustainable and socially responsible,” said D’Mall head of legal and regulatory compliance group Rudolph Jularbal, adding that the establishment has secured its environmental compliance certificates (EECs) from the DENR. — Camille A. Aguinaldo