DILG ready for countercharges from Boracay officials

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 2) — The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is ready to face countercharges after it filed raps against local officials of Boracay Island.

"We're ready for it," Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III told CNN Philippines' The Source, when asked about possible countercharges.

According to Densing, the legal team of the DILG Boracay Investigation Committee looked up incumbent officials when it filed its complaint. He shared that they were studying a letter from some respondents who argued they were still new to their posts and should not have been charged.

"I got a letter from them with that respect... pinabigay ko sa legal team namin [I gave it to our legal team]," said Densing. "I'll get an answer by today whether they will continue the charge or they will amend the impleaded officials."

The DILG filed last month administrative and criminal charges against 17 officials, including Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores and barangay captains. They are accused of neglect of duty and corruption, which led to the operation of numerous illegal establishments and the pollution of Boracay. Densing said this is only the first batch of complaints.

READ: DILG files raps vs 17 Aklan officials over Boracay mess

The island's closure to tourism for a six-month rehabilitation since April 26 has concerned many businessmen and workers over their livelihood for half a year.

However, a Social Weather Stations survey showed about 61 percent of Filipinos believed the closure was a good move.

READ: 64% of Filipinos support Boracay closure for full rehab — survey

The Commission on Audit is looking into a supposed discrepancy in the collected environmental fees of Malay town, adding that initial documents show these fees were utilized for other expenses.

Densing said only 95 out of 2,269 establishments were fully compliant with government requirements. He said 1,086 establishments did not have a mayor's permit; over 320 did not have environmental compliance certificates; and, 1,382 did not provide benefits for their employees, particularly Social Security System, Pag-IBIG housing loan, and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

"We want them to comply with all the permits before they are open or allowed to open on or before October 26," said Densing.

The undersecretary pegged the soft opening of the island in mid-September, and a full opening by October.

The DILG is one of the departments under Task Force Boracay, led by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. Densing said that DILG was supportive of the formation of a Boracay Development Council, which will oversee development in Boracay, and if the DILG's will be followed, the neighboring Carabao Island in Romblon.