Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has assured that indigent families affected by ongoing enforcement activities in Boracay will be given aid and access to social safety nets.

Cimatu gave the assurance when he presided over the meeting of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) at the world-renowned resort island on Dec. 2.

“We have to balance our duty to strictly enforce environmental laws on the island with the social aspect of our task,” said Cimatu, who chairs the inter-agency task force in charge of Boracay’s rehabilitation.

He added: “As the BIATF completes its rehabilitation targets pursuant to an executive order issued by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, it will make sure that aid will be given to indigent families affected by the implementation of the easement laws in Boracay.”

Cimatu said the families will be provided “cash assistance and relocation sites.”

In the same meeting, the head of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation and Management Group (BIARMG) reported that there are still 90 structures on the island that need to be demolished for violating the 25+5-meter beachfront easement rule.

In her report, BIARMG General Manager Natividad Bernardino said occupants of the illegal structures include 40 indigent families.

Bernadino said a working group has been formed to assess the type of social assistance that each affected indigent family will need in terms of relocation and/or cash assistance.

The working group is composed of representatives from the BIARMG, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the municipal government of Malay, Aklan, and chieftains of barangays Manoc-Manoc, Yapak and Balabag.

“We provided the group with a list of families for profiling to determine and identify the social assistance they need,” Bernardino said.

According to her, Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores has assured that the provincial government will also extend help to the affected families.

To ensure the completion of critical projects in Boracay, the BIATF has been authorized to undertake the demolition of remaining establishments encroaching on forestlands and wetlands, as well as to enforce beach and road easement rules.

Meanwhile, Cimatu commended the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for the series of successful operations it carried out in October and November that led to the eviction of big establishments illegally occupying the forestlands in barangays Balabag and Manoc-manoc.

The NBI has lodged a complaint before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Aklan against the illegal occupants for violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, PD 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines, and Municipal Order 2000-131 which regulates the construction of buildings and other structures in Boracay.

The establishments have repeatedly ignored the notices to vacate, notices of demolition and show cause orders issued against them by authorities. ###