Boracay building owners ask Aklan court to declare demolition order illegal
ILOILO CITY –– Owners of buildings on Boracay Island being targeted for demolition are “victims” of arbitrary government action under the government’s rehabilitation program, their legal counsel said.
The property owners are asking the court to rule after a trial that the demolition orders are illegal and null and void.
Lawyer Salvador Paolo Panelo Jr., a son, and namesake of presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, said his clients were in full support of the rehabilitation of the island as they bore the brunt of the dumping of untreated water in the waters of Bulabog Beach.
President Duterte had ordered the closure of the popular island-resort for six months from April 26 to October 25, 2018, after he called the island a “cesspool” for the purported dumping of untreated water into the sea.
“The ‘cesspool’ has now been cleaned up, but our clients remain victims – this time of arbitrary government action that threatens to displace families, destroy their sources of income, and confiscate the products of their life’s work without lawful justification. They thus had no choice but to run to the court for relief,” Panelo said in a statement sent to the INQUIRER.
The Kalibo, Aklan Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7 on October 15 issued a temporary restraining order barring the demolition of 10 residential and commercial buildings along Bulabog Beach purportedly encroaching on the beach easement.
The TRO directed the local government of Malay led by Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista to cease from implementing the March 25, 2019, and other demolition orders.
The court order covers the planned demolition of parts of Aira Hotel, Ventoso Residences, Freestyle Academy Kite Surfing School, Kite Center at Banana Bay, Wind Riders Inn, Pahuwayan Suites, Boracay Gems, Unit 101 of 7 Stones Boracay Suites, Unit 107 of 7 Stones Boracay Suites and Lumbung Residences.
This is the first time that a court has barred the demolition of structures since the closure of the island on April 26 last year.
Hundreds of property owners have voluntarily demolished part of their buildings amid warning of government agencies that these will be forcibly demolished.
Bautista has recalled the demolition orders in compliance with the RTC order.
Speaking on behalf of his clients, Panelo welcomed the issuance of a TRO that is effective for 20 days.
“The law is clear. There can be no demolition of homes, shops, small hotels, and similar structures unless authorized by the court after a full trial. Without a trial and a court order, demolition amounts to the taking of property without due process of law, and is unconstitutional,” he said.
Panelo said the local government of Malay can only demolish structures without a court order if these do not have the required building and other permits and clearances.
The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force, which supervises the rehabilitation of the island has tagged the structures along Bulabog Beach as violating the no-build zone covered by a 25+5-meter easement along the beach.
This is measured 25 meters from the mean high water mark (the annual average of highest and lowest high tide levels) to the shoreline as beach easement. Another five meters is added for the beach path.
Panelo said his clients have proof that their pieces of property complied with the easement rule.
“…Our clients relied on and complied with the said 25+5 line. (They) invested their life savings in their homes, shops and small hotels being assured that their properties do not encroach the (easement) only to be told almost 10 years later that the (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) made a mistake, and that the correct 25+5 line is further inland, engulfing significant portions, if not the entirety, of their properties,” he said.
A hearing is set on Wednesday before the Aklan RTC Branch 7 on their petition for a preliminary injunction.
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