Sta Fe, Bantayan Island – Armed with hammers, a government demolition team smashed down a seawall and removed one of four kiosks in the white sand splendor of Marlin Beach Resort in Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island.
It took more than six hours to destroy the 100-meter wide seawall and another hour to demolish the kiosk.
The wrecking crew, which will continue its mission to free the beachline of obstructions in five other Sta. Fe beach resorts, implemented a court order whose action is ?historic? in Cebu, considered the no. 1 tourist destination in the country and may be repeated in other areas.
?In the history of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), this is the first time that we have done this. This should serve as a warning to everyone,? said DENR-Central Visayas Regional Executive Director Leonard Sibbaluca.
Armed with hammers and a jack hammer, the demolition team yesterday implemented an order by the Mandaue City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to remove structures that encroach the 20-meter easement zone from the shoreline.
Within 60 days, the DENR team has to remove all illegal structures in five other beach resorts cited in a May 12 writ of execution issued by RTC Judge Marilyn Yap, designated environment court based in Mandaue City.
These are Abaniko Beach Resort, Tickety Boo Beach Resort, Yoonek Beach Resort, Kota Beach Resort, Marlin Beach Resort and St. Bernard Beach Resort
The demolition capped a legal battle waged by some Bantayan residents and environment advocates led by Antonio Oposa, who filed a petition for patrimonial malpractice, mandamus and damages.
Several court hearings, dialogs with resort owners and attempts to reach an amicable settlement preceded the demolition.
The DENR was directed to tear down illegal structures. Sibbaluca said his office would issue a cease and desist order against resorts that violate Presidential Decree 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines. This law prohibits building structures within the easement zone of a seashore, river or stream.
The zone is ?subject to the easement of public use? for recreation, navigation, and fishing, among others. The distance is 20 meters for agricultural areas (as in the case of Sta. Fe), 3 meters for urban areas, and 40 meters for forest areas.
The DENR will conduct an inventory of all resorts in Central Visayas for this.
DENR Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Ernesto Adobo said the demolition was a ?milestone in the implementation of the environmental laws.?
?We want it replicated in other areas. This is not an isolated case. It is an encroachment in a public place,? he added.
Environmentalists lauded the DENR and Judge Yap for taking action.
?This action is not only about demolishing illegal structures on our beautiful seashore that block the free public passage. More important, it is about sending a message to the rest of the country that our beautiful coastline must not be enclosed for the exclusive use of anyone, especially by foreigners and foreign-owned resorts. This abuse of our beaches has been going on for too long and has been tolerated by people who are supposed to enforce the law,? said lawyer Ben Cabrido, a member of the Global Legal Action on Climate Change (GLACC).
Cabrido is one of the lawyers of the petitioners, who questioned the DENR?s issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) for permanent structures built by some beach resorts in Sta. Fe within 20 meters from the shoreline.
These structures include bars, restaurants, kiosks, solid fences, rest houses and sea walls.
They asked the court to remove these to protect the pristine beaches of Sta. Fe.
Last year, Yap ordered the DENR-7 to tear down the structures encroaching the 20-meter proteted area.
Bantayan Island, a popular tourist destination with its white sand beaches, is covered by two special laws: Presidential Proclamation No. 2151 of 1981 declaring the island a protected area and Presidential Proclamation No. 1234 declaring Tañon Strait a protected seascape.
Cabrido said the DENR and legal action citizens? groups are preparing a series of criminal cases against the resort owners, including the foreigners who own the resorts and their dummies for violating the Protected Areas law and PD 1067.
They urged resort towns to remove illegal structures on the beaches, especially in protected areas.
Yesterday?s demolition started about 7 a.m. with 26 team members tearing down the seawall of Marlin Beach Resort in barangay Talisay, St. Fe.
They were accompanied by Julbert Opada, sheriff of RTC Branch 28 and 10 policemen from the towns of Madridejos, Santa Fe, and Bantayan, which comprise the island of Bantayan in northern Cebu.
The DENR they were expecting some resistance and even armed men. But the demolition went on without a fight.