BORACAY ISLAND, Malay, Aklan (via INews)—It’s either you voluntarily demolish and vacate or face arrest.
This was the stern warning issued by the National Bureau of Investigation against the violators in Boracay who continue to ignore the pleas of the government for them to self-demolish and vacate government property declared as marine protected areas and no-build zones.
“They have been warned. They already know the law and their violations but they continue to ignore the pleas of the government, so we are left with no choice but to enforce the law,” said Special Investigator Rizaldy Rivera, head of the NBI raiding team who arrested 10 individuals, including foreigners, yesterday morning at Mount Luho in Brgy. Bulabog here.
A big portion of Mt. Luho, a popular trekking destination on the island, has been classified as forest land under Presidential Decree 705, or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines, and, therefore, cannot be used if no permit is issued by the DENR.
Also in 2006, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation 1064 delineating the island into forest land and classifying it as alienable and disposable. The Proclamation categorized 628.96 hectares or 60.94 percent of the island as alienable and disposable–ownership is transferable–and the rest as forest land and protected areas.
Arrested during the raid were the following:
- Paul Sajise, 55, resident of Nabas, Aklan, and temporarily residing in Sitio Diniwid;
- Patricia Ann Varga, 56, a native of Bacolod City and presently staying in Sitio Bulabog
- Oscar Delos Santos, 65, residing at Sitio Bulabog
- Arturo Revillame, 72, a native of Quezon City and presently residing at Diniwid Beach
- John Jacinal, 35, a native of Iloilo City and residing at Barangay Balabag
- Stephen Field, 49, British national and presently residing at Barangay Balabag
- Mary Irish Guerra, 37, a native of Surigao and presently residing at Barangay Balabag
- Mark Harrington, 52, British national and presently residing at Barangay Balabag
- Maria Victoria Schafer, 37, Australian national and presently residing at Barangay Balabag
- Dirk Josef Michielsen, 55, Belgium national
- “They were caught in the act of violating PD 705, with their actual possessions on the forest land. Ang forest land ay hindi dapat tayuan ng mga gusali at istruktura ayon sa Section 20 at 28 ng PD 705 [Buildings and structures should not be built on forest land according to Sections 20 and 28 of PD 705],” Rivera stressed in an interview this morning over Todo Birada of Radyo Todo Aklan 88.5 FM.
- “Ang PD 705 is a special law at hindi kailangan ang warrant of arrest. They were informed of the nature of the case and their rights. Those arrested were cooperative; they are not considered criminals [PD 705 is a special law that doesn’t require a warrant of arrest. They were informed of the nature of the case and their rights. Those arrested were cooperative; they are not considered criminals],” he clarified, adding, “We treated them well.”
- Aside from the national law, Rivera said the occupants also violated a local Ordinance–Municipal Ordinance 2001-131–which regulates the construction of all buildings and other structures on the island.
- During the interview, Rivera said the arrested individuals presented business permits showing they were allowed by the local government to operate their businesses.
- “It’s really surprising, but the question is: why were they issued permits when the area they have been occupying is a confirmed forest land? One cannot issue a building permit, zoning permit, special land use permit, or any kind of permit on forest land,” he stressed.
- He said those who issued the permits are also liable for violating the law.
- Rivera assured that the NBI agents were not abusive during the conduct of the raid.
- The NBI agent was reacting over issues of “overkill” during the said operation as the raiding team were seen with both handguns and long firearms when they stormed the establishments to effect the arrest.
- “We don’t expect them to understand, but this is part of the tactical procedure during operations that all enforcement units, not only the NBI, employ,” he noted.
- “We have to stress that this is only part of our ongoing operations to rid the island of illegal structures in accordance to the national government’s efforts to rehabilitate Boracay. We have a timeline to follow; the government cannot continue with the critical projects for the island if there are violators who continue to occupy government property, especially marine protected areas and those identified as no-build zones,” he said.
- Rivera said that the NBI operations started in October wherein they apprehended a person for violating PD 705.
- Before the six-month closure of Boracay that began on April 26, 2018, the national government had identified commercial establishments and structures encroaching the beachfront of Boracay Island. Said structures were demolished as part of the then-ongoing rehabilitation by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force.
- “May kasunod pa itong operasyon kaya nakikiusap kami na sumunod na sila kasi kailangan na nating i-implement ang batas. [There are more operations to follow so we’re appealing to them to comply with the law or we will have no choice but to implement it],” Rivera claimed.
- The arrested violators were brought to the Aklan Provincial Prosecutor’s Office today to undergo inquest proceedings./Boy Ryan Zabal