Another building controversy, this time involving the recall of a building permit for a proposed beachfront hotel has engulfed the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Panglao even as the blatant illegal construction of a fish landing facility in a church-owned property without the permission of the Bishop has yet to be resolved.
After allowing the construction of a 12-story beachfront hotel at Alona Beach in Barangay Danao to proceed, the Office of the Building Official (OBO) of the LGU- Panglao ordered the recall of the building permit issued more than eight months earlier for violation of the municipal zoning ordinance and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).
Municipal Engineer Rogelio Bunao scrapped the building permit that his office issued on June 19, 2017, to DataLand, owner of the proposed hotel after a site inspection conducted on February 13, 2018 found that the “exact position” of a proposed 12-story hotel is “to be positioned within the beach zone which is 100 meters inland from the established 20 meters easement.”
“Your proposed 12-story building is violating specific provisions of the physical development guidelines of the municipal zoning ordinance” and ordered the building proponent to scale down the number of stories to “only 5-6 stories based on height restrictions on the beach zone.”, according to the recall order of Bunao.
The order signed by Bunao on February 15, 2018, was received by Ritchie Arabis, Project-in-Charge of White Port, Inc., contractor of DataLand to “abide by this notice and likewise summoned within 3 days upon receipt thereof to come/appear to my office for proper advice.”
ALL REQUIREMENTS COMPLIED
Danilo Mante, Jr., Head, Business Development of DataLand was dismayed by the recall order when asked by the Chronicle regarding the order of Bunao saying “I have yet to received a copy of the recall order since our company was issued a building permit after we complied with all the requirements of the LGU.”
Mante maintained that they were always in close coordination with the OBO and the MPDC in all phases of the construction.
Following the advice of Asilo, engineers of DataLand designed their building in “ascending order” with the tallest structure constructed at the rear of their property.
A perspective of the hotel was shown by Mante during the SP committee hearing showing three stories at the front, followed by another four stories and the 12 stories at the rear.
A joint on-site inspection team was created by Bunao in compliance with Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) Resolution No. 2018-31 requesting the LGU of Panglao through the building official to conduct an on-site survey to determine if the proposed 12-story hotel is within 100 meters of the beach zone which is measured after the 20-meter salvage zone.
Ironically, one of the members of the inspection team appointed by Bunao is the head of the Building Inspectorate Team (BIT) created by Panglao Mayor Leonila Montero that allegedly recommended for the approval of the assailed proposed hotel construction.
With the rapid increase in the building construction in Panglao, Montero formed the BIT to assist the municipal engineer in the inspection of buildings under construction.
According to Bunao, his office was bound by the findings and recommendations of the Building Inspectorate team headed by Executive Assistant Arthur Bagcat and the Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator (MPDC), recently retired Jovencia Asilo.
With the creation of the inspectorate team, his role in the issuance of the building permit was to ensure compliance with the height limitations of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
Despite serious questions raised against the beachfront hotel, initial construction was allowed to proceed by the LGU and the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) pending resolution of “grey areas” surrounding the location of the structures.
Bunao also divulged to the Chronicle that it is the Mayor that gives the final approval of applications for building permits with regards to CLUP compliance with the MPDC giving the recommending approval/disapproval.
Then-Mayor Leonila Montero gave her imprimatur for the construction of the 12-story hotel through a certification issued on May 7, 2017, based on the zoning ordinance and Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) of Panglao.
Montero is presently serving a three-month suspension without pay imposed by the Ombudsman for violating the one-year ban on the appointment of defeated candidates to public office. Vice Mayor Pedro Fuertes is now the acting mayor.
The assailed 12-story hotel to be named as the “Ivy Wall Bohol Resort and Hotel” will stand in a 1,637 sq.m. property in Alona Beach purchased for PhP49.110 million or PhP30 thousand per square meters, according to the building permit application.
DataLand’s building permit application was signed by Bayari C. Lachica with the corporation paying a total of PhP250,118.03 in permit fees for the PhP500.5 million hotel with a total floor area of 14,403.93 sq.m.
Construction started in April 2017 while the expected date of completion will be in July 2019.
The threat of cancellation of the building permit issued to DataLand was raised by Bonao late last year following reports reaching his office of diggings, seepage of wastewater into the sea from the construction site and perceived violations of the National Building Code (NBC).
Section 306 of building code empowers the OBO to order the non-issuance, suspension or revocation of building permits for non-compliance with the provisions of the NBC or of any rule or regulation.
The Chronicle broke the story on the illegal construction after the Panglao Island Chamber of Commerce (PICC) raised their concern with then-Mayor Leonila Montero over the height of the building, the discharge of water from the construction site into the seawaters and the lackadaisical manner environmental laws are implemented in the municipality.
But Montero, according to PICC members present during the meeting assured them that it was only a six-story structure, but much to the consternation of resort owners near-by, the LGU through the OBO issued a building permit for a 12 story structure.
Panglao Municipal Councilor Rogelin Degoma wrote Governor Edgar Chatto on November 7, 2017, expressing her concern over possible violations of the provisions of the Panglao Island Tourism Estate (PITE) that clearly stipulates the height restrictions of structures within the tourism area after the SB failed to conduct an inquiry into the issue.
Chatto referred Degoma’s letter to the SP which approved a resolution on January 12, 2018, requesting the LGU of Panglao through the OBO to conduct an on-site survey to determine if the hotel’s location is within the beach zone.
Criticisms surrounding the implementation of the easement law has created controversies of legal proportion despite the existence of Executive Order (EO) No. 9 series of 2014.
Dubbed as a “landmark executive order” signed by Montero on August 27, 2014, prohibiting the construction of all structures within the 20-meter salvage zone and create a Salvage Zone Enforcement Team to implement the provisions of the EO.
But a year later, Montero was accused before the Ombudsman together with an incumbent municipal councilor and his mother for the construction of a building within the 20- meter salvage zone.
Montero was accused of authorizing the illegal construction of a business establishment owned by Marcelina Mejos and a Korean investor within the 20- meter salvage zone “despite being aware of the fact that the said construction is in violation of national laws and regulations, including the municipal ordinance”.
Montero confirmed during an interview with DYRD ” Alagad” on September 28, 2015, that the assailed property was within the 20-meter salvage zone and guaranteed a “special consideration without precedent” kind of permit apparently to appease the foreign investor identified as a South Korean.
The so-called special permit, according to Montero forbids owners of similar illegal structures along the shorelines of the municipality to invoke the “special consideration” granted to the Korean investor.
The complaint slammed Montero for her “mind-boggling” admission over the airlanes that the property is within the no-build zone showing that “she is acquiescing to the illegal construction.”
Just recently, the Diocese of Tagbilaran was stunned upon learning that a Community Fish Landing Facility was constructed within the church property located at the back of the church-owned San Augustine Academy.
According to the contractor, Montero verbally assured him that a usufruct arrangement for the use of the land will be approved by the Bishop.
Banking on the assurance of Montero, the contractor started building the facility even without a building permit prompting the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to order the stoppage of the construction.
In all these building controversies, the paths of Montero and Bunao have crossed with both parties taking opposite positions on the implementation of the building code.
Weak implementation of laws, ordinances and even executive orders by Montero has been the bane of the rapidly expanding tourist business in Panglao especially in the Alona Beach area in Barangay Danao.
With the intervention of the national government to straighten up the mounting environmental mess threatening the crown jewel of the tourist industry of Bohol, stakeholders are now moving to band with the LGU to stave off a looming disaster confronting the once pristine destination. (Chito M. Visarra)