Demolition of beachfront structures in Panglao faces legal hurdles

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Roy Cimatu ordered some resort owners along the Alona Beach in Panglao to demolish structures built along the 20-meter easement zone after he inspected the almost kilometer-long shoreline in March.

An order of demolition targeting alleged easement violators along the seashores in Panglao has gained strong opposition from resort operators following notices of violation issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Eusalem S. Quiwag, Officer-in-Charge of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO) informed the resort owners that the structures they have constructed were “encroaching the area designated as the legal easement for public use.”

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Eight resort owners included in the list of alleged violators, in a motion for reconsideration (MR) filed in the last week of April, 2018 said that contrary to the result of an “inventory and inspection” conducted by the PENRO, their structures marked for demolition “were previously declared legal by the government.”

UNDUE HASTE

They asserted that the results of the new 20-meter salvage zone survey conducted by the PENRO, “in the height of the controversies involving the Boracay closure” was done in “haste and a haphazard manner.”

The alleged violators of article 51 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1067 known as the Water Code of the Philippines were directed by Quiwag to “remove and demolish the said structures within  ten days upon receipt of this notice, otherwise, cases will be filed against you before the proper court.”

Article 51 of the Water Code of the Philippines prohibits the building of structures of any kind along the shores of the seas and lakes, banks of rivers and streams within the zone of three meters in urban areas, twenty meters in agricultural areas and forty meters in forest areas.

Earlier, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu gave establishments in the Alona Beach area three months to voluntarily demolish structures built within the 30-meter salvage zone with the immediate destruction of concrete barriers erected ostensibly to minimize sand erosion as the top priority.

NO VIOLATION

Quiwag, in a meeting with the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Panglao on May 4, 2018, revealed that several owners willingly remove the structures they believed breached the easement zone even as the eight resort owners expressed “great shock and surprise” upon receipt of the PENRO notice of violation.

The eight resort owners, in a motion for reconsideration (MR) filed in the last week of April 2018 said that contrary to the result of an “inventory and inspection” conducted by the PENRO, their structures marked for demolition “were previously declared legal by the government.”

Five resorts found by PENRO breaking into the easement zone claimed that in 2008, a survey on the 20-meter salvage zone along Alona Beach in Barangay Tawala was conducted by the DENR under the supervision of then PENRO Head Nestor Canda.

At that time, markers were laid by the DENR along the beach clearly indicating the boundaries of the 20-meter salvage zone that served as their point of reference in the construction of their respective buildings, according to the resort owners.

The three other resort owners whose buildings were located on cliffs were dismayed that the “legal counsel of DENR and the DENR officials” allegedly “could not provide exact answers as too how the 20-meter salvage zone be measured on a cliff.”

NO TECHNICAL KNOW-HOW

The resort owners criticized the PENRO for employing “mere DENR employees with no technical knowledge to conduct land surveys using tape measures instead of geotechnical equipment.”

According to the alleged easement violators, “master markers” in Barangay Tawala and Danao were not included as a reference for the land plot surveys while no information was mentioned “as to where the measuring should begin and how to proceed.”

The MR’s filed by affected resort owners sought the revocation of the notice of violation issued by the PENRO “as this is a grave constitutional violation”.

The 10-day demolition ultimatum, according to the resort owners was “vague, without due process, no details of the alleged exact violation and “was too short a notice”.

The Chronicle also learned that several members of the Panglao Island Chamber of Commerce will seek the assistance of marine biologists and members of scientific groups involved in environmental conservation that will compose their own technical working group.

The PENRO is scheduled to call a special meeting with the Alona group of resort owners to thresh out unresolved issues and concerns arising from the imminent demolition of structures deemed violating the easement law.

The eight resorts who filed their MR’s on the notice of violation issued by the PENRO were Pyramid Beach Resort, Hayahay Resort, Genesis Dives, Alona Vida Beach Resort, Greek Taverna, Cliffside Resort, all located in Tawala, Panglao.

Belfimo Corporation, Forest Linaw Beach Resort and Pearl Restaurant in Barangay Danao and an MR filed by Arthur Bagcat, former head of the Panglao Building Inspectorate Team with an attached certificate of non-coverage (CNC) issued to a certain Karin Wesemael for a proposed 2 story residential building with infinity pool located in Barangay Bil-isan and Peter Coray with an attached photo of Bili-isan Tower Residences. (Chito M. Visarra)



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