Boracay rehab delayed by resettlement snags

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the timeline for rehabilitating Boracay Island, originally due to be completed in May, has been delayed by resettlement problems.

“We haven’t started the resettlement activities of the informal settlers living in the forest timberland. There are lots of civilians who live there, and because of the pandemic, we weren’t able to resettle them,” Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said at a briefing Thursday.

He said they were allowed to remain for “humanitarian” reasons in light of the pandemic.

“After the pandemic, we’ll look for a place for them, then we will assist them in moving to the new location,” he said.

Mr. Cimatu also noted that the rehabilitation team was not able to transfer the Boracay workers to the mainland to decongest the island.

“We haven’t transferred any workers yet. We had the intention of transferring them from the island to the mainland to add to the island’s carrying capacity,” he said.

Mr. Cimatu said the department completed various infrastructure-related activities, including acquiring easements for roads and removing structures violating the easement rules.

At the end of December, the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) said that the number of structures violating easement rules fell to 342, representing 21% of all the illegal structures on the island.

The BIATF’s authority expires in May, around the time the rehabilitation was originally scheduled to end.

The DENR has asked President Rodrigo R. Duterte to grant a one-year extension to the BIATF’s term in office. Mr. Cimatu, who chairs the task force, said the term extension will “allow the task force to complete all its projects which were stalled due to the global health emergency.”

The BIATF was created on May 8, 2018, by Executive Order (EO) No. 53. The term of the task force was due to end in 2020, but Mr. Duterte issued another EO granting a one-year extension. — Angelica Y. Yang

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