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To LGUs: Safeguard environment in tourist spots

BORACAY, AKLAN, Philippines – An ice drop vendor stands still under the noontime sun on the uncluttered Puka Beach of this island paradise, anticipating the boat to dock, where this photographer is on board, Oct 2013 file image. Senator Win Gatchalian told local government officials in key tourism hotspots to be proactive and not wait for environmental nightmares to happen in their localities. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian over the weekend said local government units with jurisdiction over key tourism destinations around the country should not wait for another “environmental nightmare” before enforcing environmental laws and regulations, stressing that the environmental woes that Boracay is currently facing were compounded by the neglect of government officials over the years.

“Local executives have the regulatory powers to compel businesses to strictly comply with environmental, building, and sanitary requirements. Sadly, the implementation of these regulations was so loose with respect to some businesses in Boracay, which obviously has resulted in this mess,” he said.

He also expressed his support for the ongoing investigations being conducted by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to determine the possible liability of local officials for issuing permits to Boracay businesses despite violations by the latter of environmental and waste management laws and regulations.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), meanwhile, has served notices of violations to 51 business establishments on the island for possible violations of the Clean Water Act (RA 9275).

Describing the top local tourist spot as a “cesspool” during a forum last February 9, President Rodrigo Duterte publicly warned of possibly closing down resorts and business establishments located in Boracay if its environmental issues were not addressed within six months.

Reports revealed that a number of establishments do not have proper sewage and waste management facilities and have resorted to dumping their waste directly into the coastal waters.

“The continuing degradation of the environment in popular tourist destinations around the country will cripple our tourism industry and endanger the livelihood of tourism sector workers. LGUs will play a critical role in stopping this troubling trend by ensuring that the natural beauty of our pristine islands are maintained and enhanced,” he said.