CLEAN WATER, SOLID WASTES – Can new DENR chief solve Boracay’s woes?

SECRETARY Roy Cimatu interacts with DENR-6 ked by Regional Director Jim Sampulna on May 16, 2017. (Ricky D. Alejo)

THE new Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary is confident that environmental problems plaguing the famed Boracay Island in Aklan will be solved during his term.

“With your help and with your prayers, I will,” said Secretary Roy Cimatu during his visit at the DENR-6 regional office May 16.

“Naumpisahan ko na ito. This is only my eight days in office, naipakita ko na at nai-press ko na sa mga tao ko na kailangang tutukan natin ito. Kung hindi sila masyadong nag exert ng effort dati, this time, i-double ang pag-exert ng effort to solve all these things,” Cimatu said.

The main environmental concerns in Boracay that Cimatu vowed to address are clean water and solid waste management (SWM).

The Office of the Ombudsman has been running after local government units (LGU) which, until now, lack sanitary landfills which is a violation of Republic Act 9003 (Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000).

Cimatu said the DENR will support the Malay municipal government, be it in formulation of SWM programs and policies or in meeting the budgetary requirements to comply with the law.

But he stressed that SWM is the responsibility of the LGU, not the DENR.

“The DENR mandate is to provide assistance to LGUs to implement government policies, like SWM. But the DENR will assist them. Whatever budget intended for it, we will also provide assistance,” he said.

Cimatu’s other concern in Boracay is keeping the tourist destination’s waters clean: “‘Yung sa paliguan, it should be free from algae and coliform.”

Cimatu said he ordered DENR-EMB in the region to report the status of environmental concerns in Boracay weekly.

 

‘NO AREA FOR SWM’

“In the island of Boracay, they have waste segregation; but the problem is they have no area for their solid waste, kulang ang area sa sobrang dami ng resort,” said Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO)-Aklan head Heherson ‘Bong’ Alvarez.

Alvarez ordered the closure of the material recovery facility in Barangay Manoc-Manoc in April 2017 amid complaints from residents, including nearby schools.

With the MRF closure, solid wastes from Boracay are shipped and disposed in mainland Malay daily.

“(The Malay LGU) knows they have a problem with the Ombudsman if they will not resolve the SWM problem in Boracay,” Alvarez said.

The Ombudsman has started filing cases against 100 LGUs that failed to comply with the almost-two-decade SWM Act.

In 2013-2016, the Environmental Ombudsman conducted a nationwide campaign to raise LGU awareness on SWM. But many LGUs chose and still choose to ignore the law.

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