Rid beach, forests of illegal structures, DENR orders El Nido traders
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Monday ordered 32 commercial establishments along the beach of El Nido town’s iconic Bacquit Bay to vacate and demolish the structures they had built in violation of foreshore laws.
The agency’s regional office for Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), which served the order, said in a statement that it was serving similar eviction orders against establishments that were illegally built on classified timberland areas.
The notice to vacate cited the establishment owners’ violation of the 3-meter easement zone in urban areas provided in the Water Code of the Philippines, the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 and Proclamation No. 32 (series of 1998), which prohibit the occupation, utilization and construction of any structure in a protected area like El Nido.
“This is just the first wave of notices we will serve. In the coming days, we shall serve similar notices to establishments and households illegally built on timberland,” said lawyer Gandhi Flores, DENR Mimaropa legal division chief.
Natividad Bernardino, DENR Mimaropa director, said most of El Nido’s establishments had been cooperating with their office in the campaign to clean up the tourist town of environmental violators.
“We understand this is a difficult process, but you made it easier because of your cooperation. We need to follow the laws. The changes we are doing in El Nido now are for the long-term benefit of everyone,” Bernardino said.
Gov. Jose Alvarez said he supported the DENR action, noting that he had long advised the town government to implement a setback plan.
“As early as 2010 when I first ran for governor, I told them to dismantle those establishments because there was no more space for people to walk on the beach. They (town officials) granted [business owners] a grace period of three years,” Alvarez said.
“Otherwise, they will go the way of Boracay,” he said, referring to President Duterte’s warning to close off Boracay Island for six months because of sewage and environmental problems.
Tourism activities in El Nido, once considered a remote destination patronized mainly by backpackers, have picked up over the last five years.
Last year, its tourist arrivals peaked at more than 250,000, even exceeding figures posted by the capital Puerto Princesa City.
In Cagayan province, businessmen voluntarily took down 18 illegal structures, which encroached on the 20-m buffer zone of Nangaramoan beach in Santa Ana town.
Christopher Taguba, president of an organization of resort owners there, said they demolished the structures after they found out that these were inside the easement zone.
“We have also committed not to erect any more structures within this zone,” he added.
Government agencies ordered the closure of Nangaramoan public beach in January following the discovery of illegal structures and the absence of sanitation facilities there.
The 500-m stretch of public beach at Barangay San Vicente has become a favorite destination for family outings due to its white coral beach and pristine surroundings.
In Southern Tagalog, the DENR is set to inspect more than 40 resorts and tourism-related establishments along Quezon province’s 1,066-kilometer coastline
Gliceria Verzo, chief of the Environmental Management Bureau in the province, said the inspection would cover beach resorts, hotels and other establishments serving tourists along Tayabas and Lamon bays and those facing the Pacific Ocean.
The DENR team, she said, would check the establishments’ environment compliance certificates and wastewater facilities. —With reports from Melvin Gascon and Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
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