House probes budget on protection of tourist spots

House Committee on Natural Resources chair Rep. Arnel Ty asks DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu during the hearing on Wednesday. (HOR image)

MEMBERS of the House committee on natural resources on Wednesday asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to submit a workable and attainable budget for 2019 aimed at addressing the environmental concerns of different tourist destinations in the country.

The lawmakers issued the call during the hearing of the Committee on Natural Resources on House Resolution 1706, authored by panel chairman Rep. Arnel Ty, seeking an inquiry into the reported establishment of structures in forest areas, including the shorelines of Boracay.

DENR officials led by Secretary Roy Cimatu provided the committee updated information on the agency’s rehabilitation activities for the world famous Boracay Island resort, which is set to reopen on October 26, 2018.

Among others, Cimatu reported to the lawmakers the rehabilitation efforts, particularly on the issue of water services and sewerage treatment in Boracay.

Rep. Jesulito Manalo urged Cimatu to submit to Congress and the Department of Budget and Management the projected budget for addressing environmental concerns faced by tourist destinations in the country.

He said that such budget proposal should include not only Boracay but also other tourist destinations in the country facing environmental issues.

Aside from the DENR officials, several stakeholders of Boracay, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Tourism (DOT) and Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) gave their insights during the hearing.

It could be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the total closure of the world-famous island resort last April 26 for a massive clean-up of the island which he called to be a “cesspool” due to alarming environmental degradation.

Ty filed HR 1706 in response to President Duterte’s closure of Boracay.

Studies revealed that at that time of the closure traces of coliform were present in the sea waters and shorelines of Boracay, endangering the health of local and foreign tourists.

Boracay’s environmental devastation was blamed on the ill effects of unregulated development and unhampered tourism activities, the excessive establishment of structures in forest areas and shorelines of the island.

Disputes between the local government and several agencies were tasked to regulate the operation of Boracay as a prime tourist destination was also tagged as a major factor in the environmental problems that beset Boracay.

p: wjg