ILLEGAL STRUCTURES ON LAPU-LAPU’S COASTAL AREAS
The city government of Lapu-Lapu has notified owners of illegal structure in at least six barangays of the city’s coastal areas to voluntarily demolish their structures as these will be torn down anyway starting on Wednesday.
Environmental Lawyer Ethelbert Ouano from the City Attorney’s Office told Cebu Daily News that Mayor Paz Radaza would meet with the task force today to plan the implementation of the demolition, which would begin on Wednesday.
The task force is composed of representatives from the City Social Welfare Office, Urban Poor Office, City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro), City Legal Office, City Health Department, City Engineering and Planning and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Ouano said there were around 190 structures that would be affected by the demolition, the owners of whom have all been been sent notices since April.
Structures that are covered in the demolition are rented structures, boarding houses and piggeries that have violated the three-meter easement zone from the shoreline.
“Those who received the notices are purely professional squatters, who are doing business by renting out their structures and those who own piggeries. We are not yet implementing demolition (of the houses owned by) settlers, but we are encouraging them to follow proper waste disposal and septic tanks,” Ouano said.
Ouano said that the 90 structures were only the first batch to be demolished.
“We are still about to send notices to other structure owners and affected families,” he added.
He said that they were still waiting for the list of illegal structures being rented from other urban poor organizations.
Affected in the demolition are those near-shore structures found in Barangay Poblacion, Pajo, Pusok, Ibo, Buaya and Mactan.
No more aid?
He also revealed that the city might no longer give them financial assistance, for they are only renting in the area and that structure owners have already benefited from it by collecting monthly rent from these renters.
“Because they are not settlers, they are only renting and they can easily look for other boarding houses. Their deposits and advance payments, they can use this to rent another house,” he said.
Ouano, however, said that they have delegated the giving of assistance to the affected families to the City Social Welfare Office.
Earlier, the city government has set the demolition in the month of May. But Ouano said they have to postpone it because of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataang (SK) elections, in order not to add political color to the activity.
Meanwhile, Ricardo Cataluña, treasurer of the Sto. Niño Landless Urban Poor Association said they sent petitions to the office of the mayor, Malacañang and the Office of the Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) in order to postpone the demolition.
“We’ve sent the petition last Thursday to the office of Mayor Paz Radaza and on Friday, we’ve mailed the petition to the office of President Rodrigo Duterte and sent a copy to OPAV Secretary Michael Dino,” Cataluña said.
The association is composed of about 40 household-members in Sitio Seaside, Barangay Pusok.
Cataluña, 45, a native of the province of Leyte, revealed that he has been residing in Sitio Seaside for about 17 years already.
He is already jobless, he revealed, while his wife is working at the Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ).
He also has two children who are currently studying as grades 7 and 10 students at the city’s Matumbo National High School.
“When I migrated to Lapu-Lapu, I was only renting a boarding house. I worked in Mepz and got married. There was a time that somebody told me that we can build houses near the sea, so I built one for my family,” he added.
Although his house has not been included in the first batch of the demolition, Cataluña said that out of 40 homeowners, 16 have received notices.
He also revealed that some of their members received notices, even if they are not renting out their houses.
“We are really confused on what to do and I hope that somebody can help us,” Cataluña said.
Cataluña said he was aware that his house would be demolished eventually because it sits directly on the sea.
“In our petition, we are asking the mayor to postpone the demolition, until such that the city government is able to give us a relocation site,” he added.
But Ouano was firm with the city’s decision not to give relocation, since the first batch of families that will be demolished are only renting houses and not settlers.
He added that the city also has no lot that could be used as relocation for informal settlers residing in the city.
The city government has initiated the demolition of illegal structures on its coastal areas in the wake of a report of the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (EMB-DENR) showing high fecal coliform content in the seawater surrounding Mactan Island, including those in Lapu-Lapu City, that made it unsafe for bathing.
The government has been asking the EMB-DENR to clarify its findings, stressing that the presence of coliform were only recorded in areas where they were piggeries, coastal shanties and the municipal water used as passage for vessels getting in and out of the Mactan Channel.
Environment officials in Central Visayas have meanwhile assured that the while there were findings of fecal coliform in Mactan’s seawater, it did not cover the whole island and that its beaches and sea remain safe for bathing.
The Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) has also sought clarification about the EMB findings because resorts on Mactan Island have been continuously testing their beachfront water to ensure the safety of their bathing guests.
Nonetheless, the city government decided to go on a clean up drive to protect its coastal waters, with the city being host to some of the poshest resorts in the country and with tourism as the main driver of its economy.
Last week, the Lapu-Lapu City Council passed an ordinance that halted the granting of permits for foreshore leases as an added protection to the city’s coastal and marine environment and to keep it safe for bathers.
The measure is expected to be signed this week by Mayor Radaza.
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