Diocese upset over fish landing facility on church property in Panglao

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Diocese upset over fish landing facility on church property in Panglao

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Allegations of illegal building constructions continue to hound the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Panglao, this time involving another structure built on church property without the permission of the Diocese of Tagbilaran.

Bishop Alberto Uy, Bishop of Tagbilaran, alarmed by the unauthorized construction of a Community Fish Landing Facility (CFLF) within a property owned by the Diocese of Tagbilaran located in Barangay Poblacion, Panglao asked the LGU to stop all construction activities immediately.

The 200 sq. m. PhP2.5 million CFLF located at the back of the San Augustin Academy (SAGA) was erected by 3N Construction and Supply allegedly at the behest of  Mayor Montero despite the absence of a site approval from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and authority from the Diocese of Tagbilaran to utilize the property.  

“Church premises and other structures should be used for the church-related religious activities and should conform to the mission and values of the Catholic church,”  Bishop Uy responding to the fish landing construction.

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NO ARRANGEMENT

In a text message to the Chronicle, Bishop Uy denied that there was a usufruct arrangement with the LGU of Panglao saying “there is no such arrangement.”

When asked if he was presented a copy of a usufruct proposal for his signature, Bishop Uy said: “I did not see their proposal since it was Fr. Joel who had a copy and was reviewing the provisions of the proposed usufruct.”

Bishop Uy was referring to Fr. Joel Ruyeras, Head of the Commision on Church Properties of the Diocese of Tagbilaran who was reportedly approached by Mayor Montero to present to the Bishop a usufruct proposal for the use of the church property for the CFLF.

This was confirmed by Municipal Administrator Alejandro Arbutante to the Chronicle adding that the usufruct proposal will be presented to the Bishop for his signature during the turn-over ceremony of the newly reconstructed church tower beside the San Augustin Parish Church in December 2017.

The signing of the usufruct document did not push through since Mayor Montero was not present, according to Arbutante.

BENEFICIAL

But according to Montero in an interview with the Chronicle last night the Diocese was amenable to the LGU usufruct proposal as long as the agreement will be drafted by the church.

“I have yet to receive the official communication from the Diocese, therefore, I cannot comment on the decision of the Bishop not to allow the construction of the CFLF to continue”, said Montero.

Montero also said that “I am positive that the Diocese will see through the benefit that will redound to the parishioners and the community with the construction of the CFLF.”

“I have been looking forward to talking to Bishop Uy about this matter and according to Fr. Joel, the Bishop also welcomes to discuss our proposal,” added Montero.

“The Sangguniang Bayan (SB) has passed two resolutions authorizing the Mayor to enter into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with BFAR for the construction of the CFLF and to enter into a usufruct agreement with the Diocese of Tagbilaran for the use of their property”, according to Montero.

The MOA provides that the BFAR shall set the criteria for the selection of the site for the CFLF and review and approve the selection of the site for the fish landing facility in coordination with the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA).

The LGU’s responsibility is to provide the land for the CFLF and be responsible for its initial development, secure and pay all clearances and permits and assist in the monitoring of the construction of the CFLF.

Montero also said that the site where the CFLF stands is classified as a salvage zone, therefore, it belongs to the LGU but she respects the ownership claims of the Diocese which is the reason for the usufruct proposal.

The only way to reach the CFLF is through the church property at the back of SAGA. No application for a building permit was received by the Office of the Building Official (OBO) for the construction of the CFLF. 

CAUGHT UNAWARE

Skeletal structures of its initial construction phase were conspicuously completed when parish church officials discovered the construction at the back of the San Augustin Academy (SAGA) along the seashore fronting Panglao Bay.

“We were caught by surprise when we noticed those concrete columns, slabs and beams appeared on the seashore”, according to Fr. Leonel Grado, Panglao Parish Priest. 

Even the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) were dumbfounded upon learning of the construction that did not undergo evaluation of the site as required by a memorandum of agreement signed between the agency and the LGU-Panglao.

VERBAL ASSURANCE

Engineer Mosqueda of 3N Construction, winning bidder of the PhP3 million project expressed deep disappointment upon receipt of a suspension order from the BFAR even as he was verbally assured by top municipal officials that “everything was in order”. 

3N Construction was issued a “notice to commence to work” for the construction of the CFLF by BFAR signed by Regional Director Allan L. Poquita on August 5, 2017, after its bid price of PhP2.5 million was considered advantageous to the government.

NO PRIOR APPROVAL

The original site approved by the BFAR was located in Barangay Libaong, according to Nila Nuevas Espana, Technical Official of the Panglao Municipal Agricultural Office but was moved to Barangay Poblacion.

The site transfer was allegedly recommended by Mayor Montero to disperse activities of the municipality to other barangays but lacked the inspection and public bidding of the BFAR.

Reports reaching the BFAR Regional Office prompted Director Poquita to write Mayor Montero on September 9, 2017, to submit documents to justify the change of site to avoid “technical problems in the implementation of the project.”

Montero was required by the BFAR to submit a letter of request for change of location, tenurial agreements for the newly identified site such as tax declarations, land titles, deed of donation, deed of usufruct or lease agreement.

However, Montero and Carmelita B. Arboleras, Municipal Agriculture Officer failed to submit the requested documents within the two-week period given by the BFAR.

But despite the failure of the LGU to comply with the BFAR requirements, 3N Construction started work on the project in the new site banking on the verbal assurance of Mayor Montero.

“We were assured by the Mayor that they were working on the documents to be submitted for approval to the Diocese of Tagbilaran for a usufruct arrangement for the use of their property”, according to Engr. Manuelito R. Mosqueda, Proprietor/Manager of 3N Construction.

But Espana of the MAO chided 3N Construction for starting the civil works based on a verbal assurance from the Mayor that resulted in a suspension order from the BFAR on December 28, 2017 “to avoid any contradictory acts within the contract.”

 The construction of CFLF’s is a government initiative to improve conditions in fishing communities with high poverty incidence and aims to reduce post-harvest losses from 25% to 18%. The fish landing facility will also serve as a training center for skills training to preserve the quality of their catch and monitor fish catch and stock assessment, according to the BFAR Provincial Office. (Chito M. Visarra)

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