32 El Nido easement violators evicted
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Sunday ordered the eviction of at least 32 establishments found to have been built illegally on the beach of a cove in El Nido town, Palawan’s prime beach destination.
The establishments encroach on the easement zones in Barangay Masagana and Barangay Buena Suerte along the cove of Bacquit Bay.
Cimatu issued the order after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in the Mimaropa region (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) released a report showing that 99 percent of all tourism establishments in El Nido were violating environmental laws.
“Our efforts to clean up the beaches now may cause temporary disruption, but this is for the long-term benefit of everyone,” he said in a statement released by the DENR.
The crackdown on El Nido came after the threat last month made by President Duterte to close down Boracay in six months if its sewage, garbage and other environment problems were not solved. Mr. Duterte called Boracay a “cesspool.”
The DENR also flagged Coron Island in Palawan, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro province and Panglao Island in Bohol province as target areas for the cleanup.
The DENR-Mimaropa director, Natividad Bernardino, said her office would start issuing orders this coming week for businesses to vacate the structures encroaching on the cove.
Only two compliant
Bernardino noted that of the 294 establishments that the DENR inspected during the past week, “only two or three establishments were found to be compliant with environmental regulations.”
“Almost all hotel and restaurant operators in El Nido will now have to pay for their utter neglect of the environment,” she said.
Maria Socorro Abu, regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau, said most of the establishments were found to have been committing multiple violations. Abu heads the newly formed Task Force El Nido that conducted a weeklong inspection.
“These businesses do not have environmental compliance certificates, discharge permits, permits to operate, hazardous waste registrations, proper wastewater treatment facilities and pollution control officers, and don’t segregate solid waste, or all of the above,” she said.
The DENR said erring establishments would face fines ranging from P10,000 to P200,000 daily for violation of the Clean Water Act and P50,000 for failing to get an environmental compliance certificate.
Bernardino said the DENR secretary might also order the closure, suspension of construction, cessation of operations, or disconnection of water supply.
The Water Code of the Philippines provides for the establishment of a three-meter easement zone in urban areas, as in the case of the two barangays, where building of any structure is prohibited.
A restaurant operator, who was penalized for failing to get a permit for a backup power generator, said Task Force El Nido personnel had combed through every establishment’s papers and permits.
“Looks like they found something everywhere and where they didn’t, they dug deeper,” the establishment owner told the Inquirer.
Cimatu appealed to the business sector of El Nido to cooperate with the DENR efforts to “clean up” the town.
“Our natural resources are unlike cell phone load that is ‘unli’ (unlimited). It runs out and dies. Some types of damage we inflict on the environment are irreversible,” he said.
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