Who’s selling the hotly-contested Boracay Island? Who’s cutting the summer capital Baguio City’s famed pine trees?

Or is there any space or slice of overcrowded island paradise still left for sale? Isn’t Boracay already owned by big businesses and small and medium enterprises sprouting like mushrooms? Or will the giant mall chain conquer and change Baguio’s green landscape?

The government should stop selling lands in Boracay and Baguio to stop further environmental degradation, so said DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje.

“The government could only promote public welfare in land that it owns. Once sold to private sector, we cannot dictate but only tell them how to mitigate the impacts of developments on the environment,” Paje was quoted as saying.

Interestingly, Boracay is still owned by the state but will lapse by 2016 based on a 2006 Supreme Court ruling.

In a span of a short three-year time, the government has the so-called opportunity to “correct and plan for a more sustainable development of the island.”

The cadastral survey of whole island is now underway and will soon be completed, noted Paje.

Curiously, the DENR has not issued since 2006 any ECC or environmental compliance certificate for any building or establishment being constructed on the island “until such time Boracay has been planned properly.”

Obviously, structures are not allowed within 25 meters from the mean water mark determined between low and high tides, and within an additional five meters intended for tourist access within the beach area.

Such rule is said to be currently being implemented through an ordinance enacted by the municipality of Malay, Aklan, which has political jurisdiction over the island.

The Aquino administration directed DENR, DOJ, DILG and DOT to study the carrying capacities of Boracay and Baguio and to look into cases of “over-building” in these areas.

The President also urged police inclusion in the implementation of environmental laws whenever necessary.

Carrying capacity refers to “how much load an area can take over a given period of time from factors such as population and infrastructure without adversely affecting the environment.”

Boracay is always in a battle against issues and concerns on solid waste management, sewage treatment, drainage system, flooding, water pollution, and coliform bacteria in its once crystal-clear waters – man-made disasters brought about by overdevelopments that threaten the multi-billion industry.

Environmentalists even raised a battlecry on disappearing bat population because of disturbance on their habitats.

PNoy even ordered to ensure that issues confronting Boracay and Baguio would not be repeated in other top tourism sites of the country.

Although DENR’s decision-making situation on issues like Boracay and Baguio is likened to “a high-wire act in balancing economic development with environmental protection.”

Positively, it is supposed to have “raised public consciousness” as the industry is considered to have become more conscious of the impact of their actions on the ecosystem.”

In case of state-owned Camp John Hay, DENR had issued a cease and desist order on the cutting of more than 1,000 trees for construction purposes.

“We can only implement decisions in government properties. In Baguio, the biggest land owner is still the government, so we can still mitigate and make decisions that will promote public welfare,” stressed Paje.

So the next time you visit Boracay or Baguio, think green and buy the idea of becoming an eco-friendly.

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