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Amid the closure of Boracay island supposedly for rehabilitation purposes, there are conflicting reports reaching us regarding the occurrence of mountain clearing in Barangay Yapak for the construction of the Costa dela Vista Resort owned by the VIllar family’s Vista Residences.

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment calls for an independent investigation not only into the alleged mountain clearing, but also the entire implementation of Boracay’s so-called rehabilitation program.

It is hard to take the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ word for it when the so-called rehab masterplan is still hidden from the public’s purview in the first place. Even if DENR’s claim that residents only mistook road widening operations as the continuation of the supposedly discontinued clearing ops is true, the confusion is rooted in the fact that little detail is known about the actual rehab plans.

The imposition of a de facto martial law on the island through the deployment of hundreds of fully-armed police and soldiers and through restriction of travel and media coverage also further hinders independent monitors to ensure checks and balances of the activities of both government and private companies in the island.

The Duterte government must lift the closure order and allow civil society, social movements and media organizations to conduct fully unrestricted independent monitoring of what is happening in Boracay. This will also provide immediate relief to residents and workers who have lost their livelihood.

The hundreds of military and police personnel must be pulled out of the island and replaced with actual environmental experts and technicians who can help ensure a science-based rehabilitation of the island.

For as long as the various agencies responsible for overseeing the rehabilitation of Boracay remain unable to present to the public a concrete and detailed study and rehab plan that demonstrates the need for the island’s full closure, there is no reason to keep the island closed and heavily militarized while the workers deprived of their jobs languish in uncertainty.

This lack of transparency and accountability only heightens fears that Rodrigo Duterte and his allies are using the Boracay closure to railroad mega casinos and other self-interests in the island.#

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