SECRETARY Panfilo Lacson, lead man in the government’s post-Yolanda recovery, said a 40-meter “no-build” zone from the shoreline was “downright impractical”.
He said the easement rule can’t be strictly applied in areas that rely on tourism and fishing for economic recovery.
Lacson was asked yesterday about the situation in Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island where a flurry of business permits have been issued by the municipal engineer for old and new beach resorts and houses-for-rent, some of them extending out to the sea or built along the beach.
Lacson said the 40-meter “no-build” policy was revised after Tourism Secretary Butch Jimenez pointed out that he “can’t imagine a beach resort being built 100 meters away from the coastline.” Fisherfolk also need a landing area, he said.
“That’s why binago nila yun because it’s downright impractical. So hindi na po talaga nasusunod yun, yung within 40 meters hindi puwedeng magtayo ng kahit anong structures,” he said.
(That is why they changed that rule because it’s downright impractical. So it’s not being followed now, that no structures are allowed within 40 meters.)
Lacson said the government is instead classifying areas as “high-risk”, “controlled” and “safe areas” through disaster-risk mapping.
Structures can still be built in “controlled areas”, he said, like houses on stilts provided mitigation measures are in place like a seawall or a mangrove and evacuation sites are prepared.
What’s important, he said, is to prohibit the building of permanent structures near shorelines to reduce the danger to life and property in case of a storm surge, like the one that devastated Tacloban City and communities in the eastern seaboard of the Visayas.
At least two resorts in Sta. Fe, Marlin’s Beach Resort and Yooneek, had seawalls and picnic kiosks demolished on orders of the Regional Trial Court in 2010 for encroaching on the 20-meter easement from the shoreline in violation of the Philippine Water Code.
A wrecking crew of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) tore down the extensions of six Sta. Fe resorts four years ago.
However, Cebu Daily News visited the island earlier this month and observed that resorts were busy building back on the beach, with new ones sprouting.
The Sta. Fe council, disturbed by the trend, has called the attention of the municipal engineer.
“What will happen if the island is already developed but those benefiting are only the rich while the locals here continue to suffer,” asked Councilor Ithamar Espinosa.
“Where can our fisherfolk dock their boats if someday our shoreline gets too crowded?”
LACK OF FUNDS
Sta. Fe Mayor Jose Esgana said it was “close to impossible” to implement a 40-meter “no build zone” in his town where about 2,300 families, mostly fisherfolk would have to be moved out.
“We cannot do that, strictly speaking. Maybe if the national government provides us funding to build the houses. That is why we are excited about the approval of the province’s rehab plan,” he said in a phone interview.
Sta. Fe already set aside two parcels of land for a storm relocation site in a barangay close to the town’s main road, said Esgana.
But only 40 houses have been completed in the 3.2-hectare site. Some houses were funded by nongovernment organizations.