In upholding the provisions outlined in Presidential Decree 705, or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines signed in 1975, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) now implements the environmental law in collaboration with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) by ordering illegal occupants to vacate the area. This is to also sustain the Boracay rehabilitation gains which began in 2018.
In Chapter 1, Section 5, the law succinctly stated that “the Bureau (refers to the former Bureau of Forest Development, now DENR) shall have jurisdiction and authority over all forest land, grazing lands, and all forest reservations including watershed reservations presently administered by other government agencies or instrumentalities.”
One of the formidable issues the DENR is facing even before it began with the mission to rehabilitate Boracay Island is the encroachment of people and structures on its forestlands. Under PD 705, lands classified as forestlands cannot be used if no permit was issued by the DENR.
Presidential Proclamation 1064, signed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has delineated the island of Boracay into forestland and alienable and disposable (A and D) lands in 2006.
A and D lands are defined as public lands that have “been subject of the present system of classification and declared as not needed for forest purposes,” and can be subject for titling purposes.
PP 1064 has delineated 628.96 hectares or 60.94 percent of the island as alienable and disposable (ownership can be transferable) and the rest as forestland or protected areas.
Boracay Island has a total land area of 1,006.64 hectares. During an inventory conducted in 2018, a total of three hundred thirty-nine (339) illegal structures were found within the forestlands of the island, to wit:
- Two hundred and twelve (212) commercial structures
- One hundred seventeen (117) residential structures
- And, ten (10) others
A joint team composed of NBI-Manila, DENR Region 6, Boracay Inter-agency Rehabilitation and Management Group (BIARMG) and CENRO Boracay, has conducted a joint ocular inspection and investigation on the illegal occupants/structures within classified timberland/forestlands and at the same time, check on their compliance to the issued Notice to Vacate specifically those located at Mt. Luho, Brgy. Balabag, Malay, Aklan, just recently.
DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Livino B. Duran disclosed that back in 2018, the DENR had issued Show Cause Orders (SCOs) and Notice to Vacate to all illegal encroachers found within the forestland areas of the island.
“During the closure of Boracay Island in 2018 which paved the way for the rehabilitation efforts of the government, they were given enough time, years in fact, to vacate the area if they have no legal claim to it,” said RED Duran.
According to Mr. Rizaldy Rivera, Chief Enforcement Division of NBI-Manila, the arrested individuals were found lacking the required legal documents to justify their presence within the contested structure. Neither land title nor Forest Land Use Agreement for Tourism Purposes (FLAGT) from the DENR were issued to them, thus, they are considered illegal occupants and were immediately arrested.
The NBI led a “warrantless arrest” of a German national Ludwig August Borchers, 69; and Filipinos Dhelmar Evangelio, 29; Gerald Alapag, 29; and Mark Bernard Alcantara, 42. All were charged due to violating Presidential Decree 705 or the “Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines,” with bail set at P36, 000.00 for their temporary liberty.
The four were initially put under the custody of Boracay Police Station and the following day, they were turned-over to Aklan Provincial Prosecutor’s Office for proper disposition of their cases.
On initial report, a total of fourteen (14) establishments are found occupying Timberland/ Forestland Block E located at Mt. Luho, Brgy. Balabag; one establishment in Block B; and two residential establishments located in Manoc-manoc which encroached the 25+5-meter easement. Last year, “warrantless” arrests were also conducted by the NBI together with the BIARMG of the ten (10) structures encroaching the 25+5 beach easement, a blatant violation of Presidential Decree 1067 or Water Code of the Philippines.
Regional Office Legal Division headed by Atty. Noel C. Empleo prepared all the necessary affidavits for filing to the assigned court. As of August 2021, there are sixty-three (63) illegal structures that are still non-compliant to PD705.
DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu once said “we want to preserve all the good things that resulted from rehabilitation of Boracay, which brought it back as one of the best islands in the world,” thus, this activity.
The Boracay Island Rehabilitation is one of the ten priority programs set by DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.