TOURISM establishments that will continue to defy an order to demolish structures encroaching the 20-meter easement zone on the resort island of Panglao in Bohol face a temporary shutdown since they will not be able to renew their business permits for 2019, Panglao town Mayor Leonila P. Montero warned.
In a letter dated December 10 to all tourism industry stakeholders on the island, Montero said the municipal government already has a list of the violators of the “20 + 10 (meters) easement” law under the Water Code of the Philippines and the Philippine Clean Water Act, which penalizes business establishments that discharge untreated wastewater.
“We have a list already of the violators and the business permit renewal will be pending for 2019, meaning without a business permit for 2019, one cannot do any business for 2019. The situation is very urgent and demands serious action for all of us, as stakeholders,” the mayor’s letter stated.
Montero noted that Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu had given violators six months to demolish all structures within the 20-meter easement zone or the island would face closure like Boracay Island in Aklan. The order was issued in March 2018 yet and the structures have not been demolished.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) Central Visayas regional office expressed support for Panglao’s efforts to implement the easement requirement under the Water Code of the Philippines and urged concerned stakeholders, in an advisory issued on December 21, to immediately comply with the law and correct violations.
“We would like to remind our concerned stakeholders to adhere to the environmental requirements, particularly the compliance of valid wastewater discharge permit and observance of the easement within the shorelines,” DOT regional director Shahlimar Hofer Tamano wrote.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) earlier said it issued Notices of Violations (NOVs) to 87 establishments in Panglao based on the initial assessment and inventory conducted by the Regional Foreshore Area Task Force in five villages in the towns of Panglao and Dauis on Panglao Island, Bohol.
Among the structures found by the team within the 20-meter easement zone were concrete pathways, native cottages, residential cottages, concrete stairs, swimming pools and seawalls owned by business establishments.
Article 51 of Presidential Decree 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines states that “banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three (3) meters in urban area, twenty meters in agricultural areas and forty (40) meters in forest areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, flotage, fishing and salvage. No person shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for recreation, navigation, flotage, fishing or salvage or to build structures of any kind.”
In her letter, Montero said officials of the DENR, DOT, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and National Economic and Development Authority as well as the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas met on November 27 to assess the situation in Panglao.
The team found that violations have not been corrected in the last six months and water quality off the island has not improved.
Montero cited a report from the Environmental Management Bureau, which said the the coliform count in Tawala seawaters reached 16,000 most probable number (mpn) as of October 2018, much higher than the DENR water quality standard of 200 mpn per 100 milliliters. The EMB also reported poor water quality in the Bolod and Doljo seawaters. (Ventures Cebu)