Senator Joel Villanueva on Friday pinpointed the lapses in the guidelines of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources- Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) in the processing and issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) to establishments in Boracay.
The EMB is the bureau under the DENR that is tasked with ensuring establishments’ compliance with environmental laws in environmentally-critical areas.
In an inquiry led by the Committee on Environment held in Boracay, the senator suggested that this may be the high time for the DENR to declare Boracay as an environmentally critical area so that the applications for the construction of establishments in the island would require the issuance of ECCs.
Under the DENR Administrative Order, an environmentally critical area is defined as an “area delineated as environmentally sensitive such that significant environmental impacts are expected if certain types of proposed projects or programs are located, developed or implemented.”
“I believe that it’s time to declare Boracay an environmentally critical area, based solely on the said definition. At present, it appears that the categorization of environmentally critical areas should not just be based on the activity undertaken in those areas, such as mining or other more precarious economic activities. I think it’s the nature of the ecosystem that should determine whether the DENR or the EMB can recommend that an area be considered an environmentally critical area,” Villanueva explained.
The senator further shared that there are hotels built in Boracay which, prior to their construction, did not even secure an ECC from the bureau.
He then noted that securing an ECC is not even included in the requirements that business establishments must comply as clearly shown in the website of the Municipality of Malay.
Boracay closure's possible effect on jobs
Meanwhile, Villanueva also emphasized the possible loss of jobs of thousands of Boracay workers should a commercial shutdown be implemented in the island.
The Department of Interior and Local Government recently proposed to declare Boracay under the state of calamity for six months and implement a commercial shutdown for two months.
Villanueva said that, given the circumstances, this could be a risky move.
According to the Boracay Foundation, Inc., the threatened closure would result in the loss of jobs of an estimated 90,000 workers.
However, the senator cautioned the business owners not to make the notion of the possible loss of jobs as an excuse for not complying with environmental regulations.
“If they are really concerned for their workers, then these business owners must take it upon themselves to comply with environmental laws and regulations so they would not face closure. Boracay’s problem on its worsening sewerage system is not just an environmental and labor concern but also a public health issue,” Villanueva explained.
The senator then asked if the national government or local and regional offices would have a contingency plan for those who might be displaced by the proposed closure should the said commercial shutdown be enforced.
He further specified that the contingency plan should include provision of additional technical and vocational education training or livelihood programs, and/or availment of partial economic subsidies for the period of the closure.
"As the Chairman of the Committee on Labor, I will always go back to the issue of employment and job generation. Nakataya sa pagsasaayos ng kalikasan ng Boracay ang buhay ng isla, at ito ay ang mga Pilipinong nagtatrabaho at nagbibigay-sigla sa ekonomiya nito. Kailangan malinaw ang pagkilos ng ating gobyerno at kooperasyon ng mga business owners para masolusyonan ang malawakang problema ng polusyon sa Boracay,” the senator said.
“Kahit anong ganda po ng pakikitungo natin sa mga turista, kung pangit naman ang pakikitungo natin sa dagat at kalikasan, balewala din po lahat. There should be a balance between economic and environmental sustainability because there's only one Boracay, our pride as Filipinos.”