Charges eyed vs. 'illegal' demolition of Boracay structures

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — Some Boracay residents are planning to sue the government for what they call an "illegal" demolition of their houses and businesses.

Their lawyer, Salvador Paolo Panelo, Jr., told CNN Philippines on Thursday that the government preempted their pending prayer for a preliminary injunction that could have stopped the demolition. He said this may be an admission that the government's case is "weak."

"They're trying to moot the issue before the court can rule," Panelo said. "If their case is strong they could have waited for the ruling of the court if they're so confident that the court will rule on their favor?"

Panelo said his clients have documented the clearing operations, "taking names so that we can file the necessary administrative and criminal charges for those involved because this is a clearly illegal activity."

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in a statement, said the demolition of 10 structures violating the 30-meter beach easement zone resumed Thursday after the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Aklan Regional Trial Court had lapsed. Malay Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista, in an executive order, said that with the TRO's expiry, nothing else could stop the local government from destroying the illegal structures.

Among these are the Aira Beachfront Boracay Hotel, Ventoso Residences, Freestyle Academy Kite Surfing School, Kite Center at Banana Bay, Wind Riders Inn, Pahuwayan Suites, Lumbung Residences, Boracay Gems, and Units 101 and 101 of the Seven Stones Boracay Suites.

Panelo maintained that these structures all had building permits – documents issued by the government "certifying that they are compliant with the 25+5 [easement]."

He explained that it was only last year when Boracay was closed for rehabilitation that the line marking the easement zone was extended. He said the government still has to prove this in court as part of due process.

"May proweba kami, na ipepresenta namin sa korte, na hindi nag-e-encorach yung mga structures na ito sa 25+5 easement... 'Yun dapat ang papatunayan muna ng gobyerno bago sila magdemolish... kasi kung nagdemolish sila ng hindi napapatunayan ito sa korte, ano po iyon, violation of due process," Panelo said.

[Translation: We have proof to be presented in court that the structures did not encroach on the 25+5 easement. This should be proven by the government before they demolish, otherwise, it is violation of due process.]

Since the island's rehabilitation began in April 2018, the no-build zone on Boracay has been extended to 30 meters from the shoreline. The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force has since demolished structures that failed to comply.

Boracay Island was shut down in April last year for a six-month rehabilitation period ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte, who called it a "cesspool." It reopened in October 2018, with officials enforcing strict rules to tourists and local businesses.

TIMELINE: Rebuilding Boracay