MANILA Ahead of Boracay's closure starting on April 26, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has identified about 120 hectares of adjoining lots and 631 hectares of coastal marine area to be tagged critical habitats (CH) for endemic and endangered species to flourish in the once pristine island.
"The establishment of critical habitats is DENR's concrete commitment to bringing back Boracay's robust ecology," Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said in a press briefing in Metro Manila on Wednesday.
The 2018 Rapid Biodiversity Assessment done by the DENR's Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) helped identify the areas for establishing the critical habitats to host endemic and threatened species, as well as promote coral-sprouting.
Cimatu is set to issue an administrative order covering the CH establishment, once the local government of Malay town, which has jurisdiction over Boracay, endorses the DENR proposal.
The BMB believes establishing CH will promote community-driven ecosystems management, opening up the opportunity to integrate biodiversity into Boracay's development planning process and way of life.
"We need to have a coordinated approach to protecting species and habitats," BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim said at the briefing.
The establishment of critical habitats is among DENR proposals to protect and conserve Boracay's environment, the DENR officials stressed.
The BMB said the target priority critical habitats lie in Boracay Island's northwest portion covering parts of Yapak and Balabag villages.
Forestland and coastal marine areas in Boracay are habitats of the endemic and endangered golden-crowned flying fox ('Acerodon jubatus') and other species of flying foxes and several threatened flora like molave ('Vitex parviflora').
These also serve as nesting grounds for the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle ('Eretmochelys imbricata') and endangered green turtle ('Chelonia mydas'), the BMB noted.
Cimatu said tourism and other human activities in these areas are disturbing the species, making these increasingly unable to produce offspring.
"We're very much concerned about the species' dwindling population," he said.
The BMB said the species' decreasing population contributes to the ecological imbalance in Boracay.
"CH is like a coordinating mechanism involving not just government but even those with stakes in the area," said Lim.
She noted an important commitment of stakeholders concerned is to ensure the critical habitats are not disturbed, so the species would recover and thrive.
Under International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, endangered species are those considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
Earlier, the DENR ensured tightened cases against erring Boracay establishments.
The department had also vowed to continue its crackdown against the violators even after Boracay's closure.
Authorities do not discount the possibility of a closure period shorter than the six months slated by the government if only all stakeholders would cooperate in the cleanup and rehabilitation of the world-famous tourist spot.
But Cimatu dismissed as baseless Senator Antonio Trillanes IV's reported allegation that the government would close Boracay to pave the way for construction of a casino there.
Tourism officials consider the looming closure a temporary setback in terms of tourist arrival in the island, but they expect the cleanup and rehabilitation work to result in a better Boracay. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency