By Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo, Reporter
THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in a statement on Friday, April 20, said it has ordered 75 business owners to remove and self-demolish within 30 days their structures built on the waters and within the easement zones of Coron, Palawan.
The agency said Task Force Coron on Thursday served Notices to Vacate to establishments violating provisions in the Water Code and Civil Code, in four barangays: Tagumpay, Poblacion 1, Poblacion 3, and Poblacion 5. These establishments include hotels, restaurants, dive shops, laundry shops, and lodging and boarding houses, among others.
DENR said provisions cited from the Water Code of the Philippines include those that prohibit occupation of river banks, sea shores and lakes within a zone of three meters in urban areas, and 40 meters in forest areas. Barangay Tagumpay is classified as timberland, while the rest as urban areas, DENR noted in its statement.
Meanwhile, provisions cited from the Civil Code of the Philippines define shores “and others of similar character” as property of public dominion and declare as nuisance “establishment, business or condition of property, or anything else which obstructs or interferes with the free passage of any body of water.”
The DENR said that business establishments, prompted by increasing number of tourists, “not only encroached easement zones, but were also found to have contributed to water pollution by discharging untreated wastewater directly into Coron Bay,” aggravating an already-existing water problem due to lack of a centralized wastewater treatment facility.
“Kaya hindi lang encroachment ang tinitingnan natin. Sinisiguro rin natin na sumusunod ang mga business establishments sa mga batas ukol sa tamang paraan ng pagtatapon ng basura at maruming tubig, at iba pang batas na nagpoprotekta sa ating kalikasan,” Roman Legaspi, head of Task Force Coron, said in the statement. (That’s why we’re not only looking at encroachment. We’re also making sure that business establishments follow laws regarding proper waste management with regards to trash and dirty water, and other laws which protect our environment.)
Task Force Coron was created by DENR MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan) in February following Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu’s order to ensure enforcement of environmental laws in the country’s primary beach destinations.
Representatives from DENR and Environmental Management Bureau comprise the group, in coordination with the local government of Coron and other government agencies including the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, Department of the Tourism, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Navy, and Philippine Coast Guard.
Coron is a first-class municipality in Palawan, attracting tourists for its waters and landscapes including Kayangan Lake.
Task forces for crackdown on violations have also been organized for El Nido in Palawan, and Puerto Galera in Mindoro.
These follow on the heels of the government’s order to close Boracay Island in Aklan for six months starting next week until October, for environmental rehabilitation.
The said closure was met with concern and protests by businesses and residents in the island, many of whom have called for a staggered closure.
Leisure and Resorts World Corp (LRWC) earlier this week denied statements from government officials that its partner, Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group, is no longer pursuing the construction of a casino in Boracay.
The planned construction of a casino in the island has been controversial amid the closure of the island. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) in March issued a provisional license to Galaxy and LRWC to build a $500-million “integrated resort” in Boracay.
On the cleanup drive in Coron, DENR MIMAROPA also cautioned establishment owners not to deal with impostors posing as DENR officials, amid reports that DENR field officials in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan were receiving calls and text messages from persons identifying themselves as Secretary Cimatu and seeking copies of establishments which were issued the said notices.