By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar is convinced that the national government should become involved in managing the tourism operations in Boracay Island to avoid its further degradation.
Villar made the assessment today following the Senate committee on environment and natural resources’ hearing, which she led, in the environmental mess facing the famous spot.
In a radio interview, Villar said she would recommend a “joint management” between the national government and the local government unit over Boracay, to make sure that laws are being properly implemented and officials are complying their mandates.
“I think that there should be a joint management between national and local government in Boracay. The local (government unit) cannot do it alone. There must be check and balance. Boracay is a pride of the Philippines, we cannot allow it to be destroyed because this will also destroy our image,” she said in Filipino.
The environment committee chairman said she is looking into filing a legislation that would enforce the proposal, not only in Boracay, but in other tourist destinations in the country.
Villar had proposed the creation of a separate government agency to oversee tourism and development activities, as well as enforcement of environmental laws, in Boracay Island.
“Magaganda naman environmental laws natin. ‘Yong implementation lang problema,” Villar said.
In their hearing held in Boracay today, Malay Mayor Ceciron Cawaling admitted issuing local permits to hotels and businesses in Boracay Island despite the absence of the required environmental compliant certificates (ECCs) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Cawaling said his office approved the operations of 173 establishments despite the lack of ECCs, saying that such permit is from the national government and should be separate from local permits.
“ECC is from the national government na hiwalay sa local government,” the municipal mayor explained.
Under the law, businesses, especially in protected ecotourism areas, should secure both local permits and the ECC to be able to operate.
Hundreds of resorts in the island were also ordered demolished for violating the 30-meter shoreline easement for Boracay.
Senators also learned that structures and informal settlers have taken over wetlands in the island.
The DENR said five of the nine Boracay wetlands have been occupied by structures, most of them by business establishments that were given permits.
Existing laws mandate that structures should not be built over wetlands to allow treated drainage water to flow into the sea.