Gov't fast tracks Boracay West Cove demolition; owner cries harassment

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Highlights

  • DILG: West Cove is "mother of all violations" in Boracay
  • DILG: All of West Cove resort to be demolished
  • West Cove claims no notice to vacate or show cause order
  • West Cove owner: Police watch outside establishment
  • West Cove to file charges vs. Malay LGU

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 26) The demolition of controversial Boracay West Cove resort on the western side of Boracay island has begun — and it will only pick up pace from here, an official said Thursday.

"West Cove is already half-demolished. In fact, the demolition... will become fast tracked," Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III told CNN Philippines' The Source.

West Cove, a popular resort on Diniwid Beach, was one of the establishments ordered closed as the island was shut down for up to six months beginning Thursday, April 26.

The government found the resort operating without a locational clearance, and building, occupancy, sanitary, fire safety and business permits.

Densing even called the resort structure "the mother of all violations" on the island.

He said Interior Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año gave the demolition order during a Cabinet meeting.

"He mentioned, it's good that (the Department of Public Works and Highways) is here... 'I'm going to ask for assistance to borrow equipment so we can fast track the demolition of West Cove,'" Densing quoted his superior as saying.

West Cove cries harassment

However, resort owner Crisostomo Aquino said he was not served a notice to evacuate or a show cause order.

Aquino said he agreed to self-demolish only a portion of the resort at the beach front. He maintained the order from Malay Mayor Ceciron Cawaling only covered closure, and he was not informed the whole structure would be taken down. Malay has jurisdiction over Boracay.

He also cried harassment, as he lives on the property.

"Pagkatapos ng closure, pinutulan pa kami ng kuryente at tubig. (May) anim na pulis sa umaga, anim na pulis sa gabi," Aquino told CNN Philippines in a phone call.

"(It's) harassment... Kung putukan ka doon, sasabihin nalang, 'Ah nag-agaw ka kasi ng baril.' Wala ka nang magawa," he added.

[Translation: After the closure, they cut off our electricity and water. (There are) six policemen during the day, and six at night... (It's) harassment... If they shoot us, they'll just say, 'You grabbed at our guns.' Then we won't be able to do anything.]

West Cove maintains it has a lease agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The document, a Foreshore Lease Agreement for Tourism (FLAG-T), was issued in 2009 and allows West Cove to occupy the land for 25 years.

However, the DENR cancelled the FLAG-T in 2014. West Cove appealed the case before the Office of the President, and this is still pending in Malacañang.

Aquino says he will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

"Sabi ko, kung hindi man favorable itong lumabas sa Office of the President, meron pa akong Court of Appeals. Kung hindi pa rin, meron pa akong Supreme Court... They allowed me (to build there)," he said.

[Translation: I thought, if the result at the Office of the President isn't favorable, I still have the Court of Appeals. If that doesn't work, I still have the Supreme Court.]

Aquino believes his establishment has been singled out, accusing the local government of giving a pass at other resorts breaking the rules. He called out the executive assistant to the Malay town mayor, Rowen Aguirre, claiming he was "hot to demolish us."

When asked about what is next for West Cove, Aquino said he plans to sue the local government unit. He added they are still computing the damages.

"We are applying for an injunction which was never given to us by the (Regional Trial Court)," he said. "We will file a case of grave abuse of authority against them with the Ombudsman."

Meanwhile, the Interior Department is planning to file administrative and criminal complaints against at least ten local government officials by the first week of May over the Boracay mess.