The flattened and deforested Boracay mountain featured in a now-viral video is allegedly linked to a condominium project by a company owned by Philippine Senator Cynthia Villar’s family, a local government officer said yesterday.
CNN Philippines reported that, according to Malay municipality’s Executive Assistant on Boracay Affairs Rowen Aguirre, the mountain was leveled to make way for a residential resort called Costa Vista by Vista Land.
Vista Land is owned by Villar’s family. Her husband, Manny Villar, also a former senator, chairs the company’s board of directors.
According to Aguirre, Boracay’s local government had already told Vista Land to stop construction activities. He also alleged that the property company lacks some necessary permits for the project.
Which is a bit odd given that Villar, who heads the senate’s environment committee, was one of those investigating violations of construction rules/easement zones ahead of the six-month closure.
In March, Villar was questioned as to whether she could remain objective given her family ties to island development, but insisted there would be no conflict of interest.
“If they want to close it, they can close it. It won’t matter to Vista Land,” she told reporters. “So I don’t care, I mean, I’m not managing our business. I don’t think it will affect our business even if they shut down Boracay, and I have done so much for the environment and I’m still doing it.”
Villar is currently the richest member of the Philippine Senate.
The post featuring the video of the flattened mountain angered netizens because it was allegedly taken on May 11, two weeks after the island was shut down and all construction work was to have ceased.
But in an ABS-CBN News report, workers on the site said that construction activities are still being done day and night.
However, Department of Local and Interior Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III told news channel ANC yesterday that the photos and videos of the site were taken before the closure started on April 26.
“As of today, these are old photos, while the videos are only documenting what is already present. But if we talk about activities, specifically cutting down of trees or flattening of certain areas, there have been none since April 26,” he said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had similar findings, according to a statement from Secretary Roy Cimatu released yesterday.
In an email sent to The Philippine Star yesterday, Vista Land chief legal counsel Ma. Nalen Rosero said that the photos were not from their project at all.
“Significantly, the images appearing in the articles do not pertain to our project site,” she said.
Rosero also said that they have all the necessary permits for their development project in Boracay and that they have slowed down construction since February.
The DILG is currently investigating whether or not Costa Vista was permitted by the DENR to cut down trees.