Rehabilitation operations at Boracay have been ongoing for months, with the Duterte government targeting its reopening by October this year. According to the scientist group AGHAM – Advocates for Science and Technology for the People, the rehab operations of the Duterte government remain questionable, as it has failed to be transparent on the details of its rehabilitation plan – that is, if such a plan actually exists.

In April of this year, the DENR released to the public pictures of their efforts to manually collect the overgrowing algae at the shores of Boracay.

“Up until now, the Duterte government has yet to provide us any details of the rehabilitation plan nor has it involved any local marine science experts to contribute in the planning process. So far, it has only given the public ‘picture perfect’ press releases but has yet to explain the real score on their plans for Boracay,” said Krista Melgarejo, resident marine consultant and deputy secretary general of AGHAM Diliman.

In line with these efforts, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has recently forged a partnership with Greening The Islands (GTI) for an upcoming project on the sustainable use of the island’s resources. According to the DENR, the two parties “will identify sustainable solutions and improve the dialogue between the government and the private sector to develop ideas on how to preserve the environment within three years.”

The memorandum of understanding between the two parties also states that they are also expected to churn out policies that will be “suitable for investments and bankable projects”.

“We find it disturbing that the DENR-GTI partnership is hiding behind “environment-friendly and sustainable policies and projects” when in fact, they are only planning to make the island of Boracay more appealing and suitable to more investors. Not only will this lead to more environmental destruction in the long run, but this will also worsen the displacement of locals,” said Melgarejo.

GTI is also set to hold its Greening the Islands International Conference – Asia Pacific on February 2019.

DENR also announced its partnerships with several companies under their “Adopt a Wetland” program. DENR signed the memorandums of agreement with Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. and Energy Development Corp. (EDC) for these companies to revive Wetlands 4 and 2, respectively. Furthermore, San Miguel Corporation is planning to adopt Wetlands 3 and 9, while Lucio Tan’s Boracay Tubi System Inc. will adopt Wetland 6. The MOA for the rehabilitation of Wetland 1 by JG Summit Holdings Inc. is yet to be signed.

“DENR allowing large companies to divide and “rehabilitate” the wetlands would only worsen its current condition of the island. These companies do not want to save Boracay; instead they would build more man-made developments, such as the lake and fountains proposed by Aboitiz,” she added.

San Miguel Corporation is also involved in the 2,500-hectare Aerotropolis project in Bulakan, Bulacan where vast areas of mangroves in Barangay Taliptip have recently been cut down to make way for the said project.

Local scientists untapped in rehab efforts

In the past months, the Duterte government has received flak from the local science and technology community because aside from the Martial Law-esque environment in the island, the government has continued to implement their ill-conceived plan for the rehabilitation of the island.

Prior to the agreements with GTI and the big companies, it was reported that the University of the Philippines Visayas and the local government unit of Malay, Aklan met last June 2018 in order to plan for a possible collaborative partnership in line with the rehabilitation of Boracay. The proposal is supposed to be a tripartite agreement, together with DENR Region VI.

However, the plan did not push through, leaving UP Visayas to resort to asking special permits and using its own resources in order to conduct their independent assessments on the island.

Aside from UP Visayas, the Panay island houses the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, an intergovernmental organization that aims to promote fisheries development in the region.

Local marine experts who are willing to participate in the ongoing rehabilitation also expressed their dismay as the Task Force continued to barred to them enter the island to conduct scientific investigation. They also raised their concern regarding the lack of transparency in the activities being undertaken by the Task Force. They are wary if the communities have been consulted on the plans for the island.

“Our Filipino scientists are very much capable to come up with science-based solutions for the rehabilitation of Boracay. By tapping foreign and private entities for the “rehabilitation efforts” instead of our local scientists, it is clear that the Duterte government is only pretending to save the natural resources and people of Boracay. Instead, it is more interested in protecting the interests of big business,” she ended.###


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