FORMAL charges have been filed against six Filipinos and four foreigners before the Prosecutor’s Office of Kalibo, Aklan for alleged forestland encroachment in the world-renowned Boracay Islands.
National Bureau of Investigation officer-in-charge Eric B. Distor identified the suspects as Stephen Field (British), Mark Harrington (British), Michielsen Dirk Josef (Belgian), Maria Victoria Schafer (Australian), and Filipinos Maria Irish Guerra, Johnson Jacinal, Patricia Ann Varga, Oscar delos Santos, Arturo Revillame, and Paul Sajise.
Their arrest stemmed from a letter-complaint from Natividad Benandino, General Manager of Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG) requesting assistance in the enforcement of environmental laws in the Island of Boracay against non-compliant establishments in Barangay Balabag.
On November 24, 2020, operatives from NBI-Environmental Crime Division (NBI-EnCD) conducted an operation against nine establishments found to be encroaching on forestland per certification coming from the DENR.
All the establishments were never issued any tenurial instrument nor any other permits by the DENR, Distor said.
In the course of the operation, the 10 individuals, who are identified as owners and care takers, were arrested.
The non-compliant establishments in the forestland areas and the 25+5 meter beach easement are Sea View Apartment, Aloha Villa, La Dolce Vita/Casa Monte, Private Mountain Casitas Boracay Inn, Cochiba Villas, Carolina Park View, and Boracay Sunshine Shuttle and Limousine Corporation.
The said establishments are big structures in Forestland Block E in Bgy. Balabag, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan.
“The fact that these structures were built in Forestland which is considered land of Public Domain violates Section 20 in relation to Section 78 of Presidential Decree 705 otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, regarding the lack of permit, lease or any tenurial instrument from the government and unlawful occupation of Forestland,” Distor said.
Other structures that violated the 25+5 meter beach easement no-build zone mandated under Malay, Aklan Municipal Ordinance are Artista Beach Villas and Monkey House.
The violation was committed since the structures or portios of it fall within the 25+5 meter beach easement no-build zone classified as Forest Land.
Those arrested were brought to the Prosecutor’s Office of Kalibo, Aklan for inquest proceedings for violation of Presidential Decree 705 (Revised Forestry Code), PD 1067 (The Philippine Water Code), and the 25+5 meter beach easement ordinance of Malay.