Cebu City seeks SC order to clear 18K structures, revive rivers

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IN A BID to revive and restore its seven major rivers that were already declared “dead,” the Cebu City Government will file a petition for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan before the Supreme Court (SC).

Lawyer Gerardo Carillo, chairman of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told SunStar Cebu Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, that the City Government has decided to file the “intergeneration suit” to hasten the clearing of some 18,000 illegal structures built within the three-meter easement of waterways.

Carillo added that the writ of kalikasan will also compel national agencies to act accordingly and provide programs and projects that will help restore the status of the city’s rivers and tributaries.

“The seven rivers are already dead according to EMB (Environmental Management Bureau), so we need to rehabilitate our rivers. And we cannot do that if we cannot clear the three-meter easement,” said Carillo.

The seven major rivers are Guadalupe, Kinalumsan, Mahiga, Lahug, Estero de Parian, Bulacao and Butuanon.

A writ is a formal, legal document that orders a person or entity to perform or to cease performing a specific action or deed.

Under the SC’s Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, the writ of kalikasan is a remedy available “on behalf of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or private individual or entity, involving environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.”

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) have been named by Carillo as nominal parties to the petition.

Carillo said the DENR is involved since this is an environmental issue and it is mandated by law to take action with the problem encountered by the City Government.

The DPWH should also be on board because it is the national agency’s job to fund flood control projects along with the clearing of the three-meter easement, he added.

Carillo said the CPA is involved in the petition because some river outlets in the city have been transformed into a port area.

According to Carillo, the writ will also help the City Government in clearing privately owned structures along the three-meter easement like malls and warehouses.

Across all seven rivers and their tributaries, Carillo said 14,000 to 18,000 structures need to be demolished.

“We wanted this all cleared and we wanted the rivers to be restored... and to mandate all government agencies to work towards the revival and restoration of our rivers,” said Carillo.

Carillo was joined by lawyer Jerone Castillo, assistant on special projects of Mayor Michael Rama, in making the draft of the writ of kalikasan and it is expected to be filed before the SC next week.

During the Cebu City River Summit last June, the EMB in Central Visayas reported that it had found high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the seven major rivers of the city.

Under the Water Code of the Philippines, the banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban areas are subject to the easement of public use for recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage. No structures may be built in this zone.