ILOILO City – The local government unit of Malay, Aklan has confirmed it won’t provide a relocation site for families displaced by the ongoing demolition of illegal structures in Boracay Island.
Over a hundred illegal structures, mostly houses built on Boracay’s wetlands, have already been demolished, according to Rowen Aguirre, municipal executive assistant for Boracay affairs.
“We have no relocation site for them. Ang amon, we will remove people who are ara sa lugar nga indi sila dapat,” said Aguirre.
The demolition of illegal structures is part of the ongoing rehabilitation of Boracay.
Most of the demolished houses doubled as boardinghouses so included among those displaced were boarders, said Aguirre on the sidelines of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) meeting in Boracay on Oct. 5.
“But most of them nagpangita na sang halinan,” said Aguirre.
As far as it was concerned, the municipal government did not promise a relocation site to those who would be displaced by the demolition, he added.
“Kun sin-o nagpromisa sa ila, dapat amo ‘to ila istoryahon,” stressed Aguirre.
The demolition would continue until Boracay is cleared of illegal structures, he stressed.
“Inuna natin those in the wetlands, especially wetland No. 6 kasi ito ‘yung isang source ng high coliform content sa area. Ang tubig sa wetland No. 6 dumidiretso sa dagat. Since ‘yung kanilang waste inaabot ng tubig, definitely nagkakaroon ng contamination,” Aguirre explained.
Boracay has nine identified wetlands. The island, closed to tourists since April 26, would be reopening this Oct. 26.
At the outset, then Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) officer-in-charge Emmanuel Leyco as well as Environment secretary Roy Cimatu who headed the Boracay Interagency Task Force assured Boracaynons no one would be evicted if there was no relocation site for them.
But while Aguirre was insisting that providing relocation for the displaced was not the Malay local government unit’s business, DSWD Region 6 chief administration officer Leo Quintilla asserted that identifying the relocation site should be the job of the local government.
Quintilla clarified that DSWD’s task was only to provide support in the transfer process of the displaced and this included providing their initial needs.
He also stressed the importance of site preparation prior to the relocation.
“Pagnatapos na ang preparation, DSWD will help in the relocation of the displaced residents,” said Quintilla.
In a report of the state-owned Philippine News Agency in July, Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer Richard Fabila said they were still looking for relocation sites for occupants of Boracay’s wetlands.
“The foremost requirement is for the relocation site to have no legal issues in the procurement,” Fabila said.
Initially, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) identified a possible relocation site in mainland Malay, specifically in Barangay Cogon. But Cimatu later said the relocation site was prone to landslides.
“So we are looking for an alternative site. I cannot recommend a landslide-prone relocation site,” he told the press in an interview in July.
Cimatu said they were considering two other possible relocation sites but did not name them.
Last month a group of displaced Boracay families and workers demanded for a relocation site promised them by the government.
“Asta subong wala sang kasiguraduhan nga may relocation,” said Olive Abañera, spokesperson of the alliance called “We are Boracay.”
Abañera’s group claimed the demolition supervised by the DENR already displaced around 400 households and establishments in three barangays (Balabag, Manoc-Manoc and Yapak).
In ordering Boracay’s closure and rehabilitation, President Rodrigo Duterte noted that only four out of nine wetlands in the island remained due to the encroachment of illegal structures.
The structures included 937 illegally constructed on forestlands and wetlands, as well as 102 erected on areas already classified as easements./PN