Regional Updates (07/28/20)

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DENR recovers another wetland in Boracay

ANOTHER wetland in the island of Boracay has been recovered from illegal occupants and is being set up for restoration works, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said. In a statement on Tuesday, the DENR said an 8.5 hectare wetland located in Barangay Manoc-Manoc, tagged as Boracay Wetland No. 6, was cleared of illegal structures being occupied by 31 families belonging to the Tumandok indigenous people. Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group General Manager Natividad Y. Bernardino said the recovery of the wetland is in accordance with Executive Order 53, intended to address the degradation of the resort island. “The planned rehabilitation of the wetland paved the way for the original settlers of the island to get their rightful share of Boracay lands, while also serving as a fulfillment on the policy directive of the President to distribute lands to the indigenous peoples and natives of Boracay,” Ms. Bernardino said.

On July 28, the 31 displaced Tumandok families were formally transferred to lands awarded to them in March by the Department of Agrarian Reform. The DENR said it also donated timber from trees that fell during typhoon Ursula in December 2019 for the construction of their houses, while water and sewerage facilities will be provided by the Boracay Island Water Company. The restoration of Wetland No. 6 will be under the Lucio Tan-controlled water concessionaire Boracay Tubi System Inc. Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that of the nine Boracay wetlands identified for rehabilitation, five have been already adopted by private companies for a period of three to five years under their corporate social responsibility programs. According to the DENR, wetlands are one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems as they serve as home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. “These lands help reduce soil erosion, retain sediments, absorb nutrients, store water to minimize the impacts of floods and droughts, and help mitigate the effects of climate change,” the DENR said. The wetland recovery and restoration program is part of the rehabilitation of Boracay, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. In April 2018, President Duterte ordered the full closure of the island, which he said has become a “cesspool,” for an overhaul. It was closed for six months, and rehabilitation works are still ongoing. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

Maranaos ask post-SONA: What about the Marawi?

MARAWI residents lamented the non-inclusion of their plight in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address on Monday, citing the still pending reconstruction of their city and proposed compensation policy. The multi-stakeholder group Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, in a statement on Tuesday, asked: “The President elucidated plans for national recovery and resilience that he wants to pursue for all Filipinos. But what about the Maranao who have been waiting for three fruitless years — way before the pandemic and its consequent economic crisis?” They said while the government is laying plans for new economic growth areas, Marawi residents displaced by the 2017 siege remain in temporary shelters. “Well how about a Balik-Marawi program to deter deaths and disease in the refugee camps and to stem the rise of violent extremists that have tapped into local discontent?” The independent group also criticized the President’s failure to include the proposed Marawi compensation bill in his list of priority legislation. At least 94 lawmakers have expressed support for the proposed law, which seeks to provide a compensation scheme for victims of the siege that ravaged major parts of the city as local extremist groups battled it out with government forces for almost five months. Versions of the bill have been submitted in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Bacolod wants to revert to strict lockdown for 2 weeks, seeks national COVID-19 task force approval

THE BACOLOD City government wants to reimpose a strict lockdown for two weeks following a recommendation from the local medical community as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases spike within the city and Negros Occidental province. Mayor Evelio R. Leonardia, in a statement released late Monday, said they will submit the requirements for the request to the national COVID-19 task force by Tuesday, July 28, for evaluation. Under current guidelines, local governments need to get the national task force approval for the declaration of a change in quarantine category. Bacolod is proposing to be placed under the strictest level, the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Canlaon Medical Society President Ma. Ivy Malata and Negros Occidental Medical Society President Robert Puerta asked Mr. Leonardia for the ECQ declaration “in order to limit the movement of people as a means to contain the virus and prevent its spread to a level of high community transmission,” the city government said in the statement. As of July 26, the city has recorded 149 cases, with 88 active, 57 recoveries, and no death. Negros Occidental, where Bacolod is located but administered separately, has over 200 active cases, including 182 returning residents. Last Sunday, Mr. Leonardia and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas agreed to temporarily suspend sea travel between the two cities until further notice.