An 8.5-hectare wetland in Brgy. Manoc-manoc, Boracay Island was successfully cleaned and recovered from illegal settlements and structures on Tuesday, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Wetland No. 6, also known as “Dead Forest,” used to be occupied by 31 families belonging to the Tumandok tribe.
DENR Director Natividad Bernardino, who serves as general manager of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG), said the recovery of Wetland No. 6 is in compliance with Executive Order 53 that created the DENR-led Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) to reverse the degradation of the world-famous resort island.
Wetlands are considered to be one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems as they are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species.
They also 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 restoration of Wetland No. 6 will be undertaken by the Lucio Tan-controlled water concessionaire Boracay Tubi System Inc., in accordance with the Boracay Action Plan being implemented by the BIARMG.
Bernardino also said that the planned rehabilitation of the wetland paved the way for the original settlers of the island to get their rightful share of Boracay lands.
“This is also a fulfillment of the policy directive of the President to distribute lands to the indigenous peoples and natives of Boracay,” she said.
The 31 families were formally transferred to lands covered by certificates of land ownership awards issued to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform in March.
Timber from typhoon-felled trees have also been donated by the DENR for the construction of their houses. They will also be provided with water and sewerage facilities by the Boracay Island Water Company.
DENR Secretary and BIATF Chair Roy Cimatu had earlier said that of the nine Boracay wetlands identified for rehabilitation, five have been adopted by private companies for a period of three to five years as part of their corporate social responsibility programs.
Prior to rehabilitation, Boracay wetlands were contributing to the pollution of the island’s waters and had posed threats to the health and safety of residents and tourists.
Wetland No. 4 located in Central Boracay was also successfully recovered by the DENR and converted into a linear park by the Aboitiz Group in 2019.
The one-hectare lagoon situated right across D’Mall, one of the busiest areas on the island, is now called Balabag Wetland Park. It has a plaza and perimeter boardwalk adorned with plants and trees.