Boljoon town to decide: Sandy shore or reclamation?
Boljoon town council set to support DPWH coastal project and excavation of Ili Rock for ‘public safety’; Seascape to have 20-meter-wide pavement
The Boljoon municipal council will decide today whether to proceed with a reclamation project that would change the sandy shoreline in front of their church plaza and to continue the excavation of Ili Rock.
The P43.9 million reclamation project of the Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will establish a 20-meter-wide paved strip as “shore protection” from the foot of the town’s iconic limestone cliff to the barangay hall of the poblacion.
Engineer James Dellosa of the DPWH 4th engineering district said the paved area can be used as a “processional route”.
After a second public consultation held last Friday, initial resistance to the two DPWH projects simmered down.
Coastal fishermen who earlier complained when boulders and debris removed from Ili Rock were dumped on the beach in November, blocking their boats, were told the changes were being done for “public safety” above heritage value.
Boljoon, whose residents rely on fishing and farming, is being promoted by Cebu province as showcase of “digital heritage tourism”, with its 18th century Patrocinio de Maria stone church, watchtowers, and unique seascape and mountain close to each other.
QR Code markers with information about the town’s cultural and historical wealth, were inaugurated last June with Boljoon Mayor Merlou Derama and Gov. Hilario Davide III present for the joint project with Smart Communications and Innopub.
In its website, boljoon.myguide.ph, a photo of the sweeping coastal view describes Boljoon as a “postcard town” with its “‘picturesque view of mountain ranges and the sea.”
“The peaceful town has many well-preserved heritage structures,” says the caption.
The reclamation project will affect 8,000 square meters, according to the DPWH plan. The width of the foreshore to be paved is not final yet. The DPWH will wait for the approval of Boljoon residents and leaders.
Boljoon lawyer Edmund Villanueva, who earlier expressed vehement opposition to both projects and the loss of the town’s heritage value, said they want to see how much area would be disturbed by the reclamation.
DPWH personnel will start planting bamboo poles in the shoreline today to mark the site.
“We will see first. We want to know the exact boundaries of the reclamation project. Even Baltazar Tribunalo (of the Provincial Disaster and Planning Office) during the public consultation said the reclamation project cannot protect residents from a possible storm surge. The reclamation will not solve the danger of the rising sea level. There is still a need to evacuate residents. And there is a substantial marine ecosystem that will be affected if the reclamation is done,” Villanueva told Cebu Daily News.
The DENR 7 in a technical conference the other week reminded the DPWH and town officials that neither Boljoon town nor DPWH has the legal authority to implement a reclamation project on their own.
The Boljoon Municipal Council last Nov. 17, alarmed by complaints of fishermen and heritage advocates, passed a resolution urging DPWH to suspend work until a public hearing is held.
But today, the council may be inclined to pass another resolution supporting the reclamation and a P45.26 project for ‘slope benching’ of Ili Rock for the sake of public safety.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson ordered the Region 7 office to suspend activities in Boljoon pending an alternative design for Boljoon’s Ili Rock’s slope protection.
In a Nov. 28 letter to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Singson answered a query about local protests against the projects as reported in CDN’s November 18 front page story ‘Boljoon’s Ili Rock Vanishing’.
Singson explained that the “slope benching” was aimed to reduce the risk of landslides after the 2013 Bohol earthquake.
“Recognizing the call and concerns of the stakeholders, please be informed that we have directed the Cebu Regional Office to temporarily suspend all excavation works in Ili Rock pending their submission of alternative options that will not totally affect the mountain including a review of the contractor’s plan of action in slope stabilization and waste disposal,” Singson wrote.
But last Friday, residents appear convinced the problem of cracks in Ili Rock had to be fixed to avoid future harm to those living at the foot of the cliff as well as passing motorists.
“We have been coordinating with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) who agreed that there is a need to do this project for safety reasons. We don’t want to be blamed if there is an accident that will happen in that area,” said Engineer Dellosa.
Rudy Alix of the Movement for Livable Cebu (MLC) whose group earlier expressed dismay over the defaced Ili Rock and lack of prior public consultation, said DPWH assured the in Friday’s public hearing that trees will be planted on the ledges carved out of the limestone cliff.
Most of the excavation is already done.
“They (DPWH) said there is minimal excavation left to do and plant trees that can have deep rooting to prevent rocks from falling down. There is no more debate on Ili Rock,” Alix told Cebu Daily News.
DPWH said the “shore protection” project was necessary.
“It’s not a reclamation project but protection for the residents and the heritage church (Patrocinio de Maria Church built in 1783) of possible storm surge,” Dellosa said.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Executive Director Isabelo Montejo previously told Dellosa the 8,000-square meter coastal project was still a reclamation project.
“Whatever you call it, as long as you fill up a foreshore area with filling materials or convert part of the body of water to land, that is still a reclamation project,” Montejo said.
Dellosa said DPWH has to stick to its original “shore protection” plan instead of just transfering the budget to rehabilitate a damaged portion of Boljoon’s reclamation behind the municipal hall and Poblacion barangay hall that was eroded during typhoon Pablo.
The current project will be endorsed to the Cebu Provincial Reclamation Authority after a Boljoon council resolution is passed supporting it.
Only province, cities or towns with new charters, and the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) are authorized to implement reclamation projects.
Villanueva said the endorsement of the Boljoon municipal council and the Provincial Board are part of the administrative process.
“We will just give them the benefit to file necessary documents needed for a reclamation project. The proponent will still have to ask for an ECC (environmental compliance certificate) and all other documents necessary. But these will not stop us in the private sector from taking legal action. Our cause of action will have to stay. What is important for now is for all government agencies environment and cultural to coordinate,” Villanueva said.
Welcome to Boljoon
(Text of a tourism visitor’s guide in www. boljoon.myguide.ph, the digital tourism project of Boljoon municipality with Smart Communications and Innopub.)
A HUNDRED or so kilometers south of Cebu, the mountain comes so close it almost touches the sea.
This combination of a mountain range backdrop to narrow coastal plains creates a quaint and scenic spot that is now known as the town of Boljoon.
…. In Boljoon, the coast curves inward and contracts the lowland further so it gets hemmed in by the tall mountainsides. The effect is a picturesque marriage of sea, land, and mountain.
Visitors come across Boljoon after a drive along a part of the coastal highway that snakes around the foot of a rocky promontory hiding the town from view.
This huge and jutting slab of geological formation is called Ili Rock and Boljoanons consider it the town’s second most important landmark next to the Parish Complex. Among the more prominent features of the town center include the Boljoon church, rectory, and watchtower that date back to Spanish colonial times.
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