Trash dumping in Boracay causes tension

BORACAY, Aklan - Tension gripped an Ati community here last Wednesday night after police arrested a claimant to a contested 2.1-hectare piece of land for allegedly dumping garbage into a mangrove swamp within the property.

The incident happened after Interior Secretary Mar Roxas directed the Philippine National Police to secure the beachfront property in Manoc-Manoc village that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) had awarded to the Ati.

Roxas flew here Thursday to check on the implementation of the writ of execution of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title that the NCIP had given to the Ati community and the enforcement of the 30-meter easement rule for structures built along the shoreline of Boracay.

Arleen Gelito, one of the three private claimants to the land, was arrested by police after he was identified as the one who ordered two men to dump a truckload of trash near the Ati community, NCIP Executive Director Marlea Munez said.

"Residents and Ati tribesmen are afraid of that man because he is a known neighborhood toughie here. Even his relatives are afraid of him," Munez told reporters in an interview.

She said the tribesmen sought the help of policemen guarding the property after they noticed that two men were dumping trash in the mangrove swamp at around 9 p.m.

The policemen arrested the two men and took them to a nearby police station, she said.

They initially refused to say who ordered them to dump the garbage in the swamp, but Munez said the NCIP was eventually told it was Gelito.

"After Gelito was taken to the police station, some [men] started cursing and shouting at the Ati tribesmen. They even threatened to rape the women and hurt the other tribe members," Munez said.

She said the police could not identify who were harassing the Ati, as they "could not enter the houses where the unidentified [men] were hiding."