The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will soon start the restoration of wetland No. 6 also known as the “Dead Forest” in world-renowned Boracay after it has been recovered from its illegal occupants.
DENR Director Natividad Bernardino, who also serves as the general manager of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG), said Monday the recovery of wetland No. 6 is very important to be able to restore the area the soonest possible time and restore its ecosystem.
She said the delay was caused by the families who were illegally occupying the area because they had to look for a place where they can relocate, based on the directives of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Instruction ni Sec. Cimatu is to find a land for them to be relocated, gusto ng gobyerno social justice din. We don’t just demolish the houses of people here in Boracay, we also make sure na mabigyan sila ng relocation at ng lupa (Sec. Cimatu instructed us to find a land for them to be relocated. The government also wants social justice. We don’t just demolish the houses of people in Boracay. We make sure as well that they are given land where they can relocate),” she said during an event in Boracay, which was also posted on the department’s social media accounts.
Bernardino said the occupants of wetland No. 6, the Tumandoks, are natives of Boracay, just like its indigenous people, the Ati.
She said Tumandoks, together with the Ati’s, were the very first ones who were given their own land titles in Boracay, following the instruction of Duterte.
“While we demolish the big commercial establishments, we have preferential treatment for the natives of Boracay. We are making sure na meron silang malilipatan, merong mabibigay na assistance sa kanila (that they have a place where they can relocate and that they will be given assistance),” she said.
She said at the right time the Department of Agrarian Reform came in to assist the Tumandoks in finding land where they can relocate while assuring that this land will be theirs.
The 8.5-hectare wetland No. 6 located at Barangay Manoc-Manoc has already been cleared of illegal structures.
The recovery of wetland No. 6, according to Bernardino, complies with Executive Order (EO) 53 that created the DENR-led Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) to restore Boracay Island to its original beauty.
EO 53, issued in 2018 when the Boracay rehabilitation started, tasks the DENR “to relocate and demolish all establishments and structures encroaching on forestlands, wetlands and other water bodies in Boracay”.
On Monday, the 31 Tumandok families occupying the “Dead Forest” formally transferred to lands covered by Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) awarded to them by DAR in March.
Moreover, the DENR donated timber from trees felled by Typhoon Ursula last December for the construction of their houses while the Boracay Island Water Company will provide for the water and sewerage facilities.
Restoration of wetland No. 6 will be undertaken by the Lucio Tan-controlled water concessionaire Boracay Tubi System Inc., under the Boracay Action Plan.
To recall, Cimatu earlier said that of the nine Boracay wetlands which were identified for rehabilitation, five were adopted by private companies for a period of three to five years as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. (PNA)