The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is conducting an investigation into the possible accountability of local government officials over environmental issues in the island of Boracay, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said on Thursday.
“The local government is accountable for the crisis faced by Boracay. They should have enforced environmental laws as well as their own local ordinances,” Año said in a press release.
On February 12, President Rodrigo Duterte accused local government executives in the popular White beach of being responsible for pollution in the area. He said that he would file complaints against them for “serious neglect of duty” as they were not able to maintain a clean environment.
The President also said that these officials are being too “zealous” in approving construction of various commercial establishments on the island without proper sewerage system.
The local government chief pointed out that the presence of business establishments, some beyond the prescribed gap from the coastline, would not be possible without construction and building permits issued by the local government unit (LGU).
“Why did the LGU allow establishments to be built in areas classified as forest lands? Why did the Barangay issue the necessary clearances? This we intend to find out and soon,” Año said.
The Interior and Local Government Secretary warned that administrative and criminal charges will be filed against government executives based on the findings of the ongoing probe.
“We are expediting this and we will go where the evidence brings us,” he said.
As cleanup drive begins in the world-famous White Beach, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu closed down 51 commercial establishments in the area for failing to comply with Clean Water Act, the Ecological Waste Management Act, and land use regulations.
The order was issued after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to close the popular tourist destination, calling it a “cesspool,” if the island’s environmental woes will not be addressed in six months.
Following the President’s directive, the Environment Secretary also gave the local government a six-month deadline to address environment problems in the island.
“I will give you 6 months to clean up Boracay. LGU ang may responsibilidad dito. Sila ‘yung mga nagma-manage sa cleanliness (The LGU is responsible for this. They are the ones who manage cleanliness).”
While addressing the crisis in Boracay, Año reminded other LGUs all over the country to “shape up without waiting to be rebuked.”
“Kailangan pa bang masita bago umayos? Kailangan pa ba ng ultimatum galing pa sa Pangulo bago umaksiyon (Do they need to be called out first before they shape up? Do they need an ultimatum from the President first before they take action)?” he said.
“The gradual ruin of our environment is already being felt as calamities devastate the country many times in a year,” he added.