By Herbert Vego
WHILE listening to Kalibo-based Radyo Todo yesterday, I chanced upon Rhodel Lababit – community environment officer of Malay, Aklan – being interviewed by broadcaster Jonathan “Idol” Cabrera on his directive giving informal settlers of Boracay Island 15 days to demolish and vacate their homes.
With the exception of the more fortunate, most of the settlers had resisted the order due to the failure of the local government to provide them with a relocation, hence contrary to the so-called Lina Law (RA 7279), which calls for the provision of relocation sites for evicted informal settlers.
Cabrera asked whether Lababit had coordinated with either the Aklan provincial government or the Malay municipality.
“No” was the answer.
“Yes,” Lababit admitted that his office, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), was expecting a visit from his boss, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu.
What they had coordinated with was the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in order to arrest violators of the eviction order.
He could not fully explain why DENR was in such a hurry to drive away the homeowners.
“Their eviction is long-overdue,” Lababit reasoned out, recalling the year 2018 as the first time his office notified the settlers.
How cruel naman!
Cabrera also played his previous day’s interviews with the threatened settlers, most of whom had been making a living in Boracay for decades.
“We are willing to vacate, but how?” a worried resident asked. “We have no relocation cites and no money to rebuild our homes. I have been jobless for eight months.”
The informal settlers, Cabrera said, were appealing to Malacañang for “intervention”.
We can’t blame them for pinning too much hope on the Lina Law for government assistance. Moreover, they probably think they could avail themselves of a portion of the P25.26-billion Boracay Action Plan (BAP) as approved by President Duterte.
It was in June 2019 when the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) announced that it was ready to implement the BAP out of pooled funds from government agencies and the private sector.
A news report on BAP revealed that it would complete the island’s rehabilitation and continue its sustainable tourism development program.
What remains unclear to the informal settlers is what the government would do with their vacated lots.
The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously set back the timetable for whatever intentions the national government had to develop the island. But more than a year before the pandemic, President Duterte had ordered its six-month clean-up closure.
This writer remembers that in July 2017, there were newspaper reports on two foreign casino operators – AB Leisure Global Inc. and Galaxy Entertainment Group — interested in opening a casino in Boracay.
But “change” must have come in this time of COVID where foreign tourists are unwanted.
Sey n’yo, Governor Joeben Miraflores and Mayor Frolibar S. Bautista?
Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.
RESELLING ELECTRICITY DOES NOT PAY
The “Jumper Mo, Noche Buena” Christmas offer of MORE Electric and Power Corp. appears to be producing results that uphold the dictum, “Crime does not pay”.
The “promo” invites residents of Iloilo City to report the names and addresses of people engaged in reselling pilfered electricity to at least five households in exchange for a reward of P3,000 cash. That amount would surely suffice to splurge on a Noche Buena feast for the winner’s family.
Hundreds of respondents have called MORE cell phone number 0917-5867377 (JUMPERS) to report. Their identities, however, will remain confidential.
The “Jumper Mo, Noche Buena” promo, aimed at curbing power pilferage, will last until December 24 (not Dec. 20 as earlier announced.)