Garcia stops construction of floating cottages in Cordova

·5 min read

GOVERNOR Gwendolyn Garcia has ordered an immediate stop to the further construction of illegal structures like floating and fixed cottages within the foreshore area, mangrove zone, public beach zone, and municipal fishing zones of the Municipality of Cordova.

In Executive Order (EO) 19 issued on August 9, 2022, the governor also ordered owners and operators of pump boats and other similar sea vessels “to immediately cease and desist from transporting materials” to these areas for the construction of these illegal structures.

Aside from violating national and local laws on easement zones, the floating and fixed cottages in question also have no clearances and permits from the Municipal Government of Cordova, or proper waste management facilities, causing pollution in violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 856, or the Sanitation Code of the Philippines, and Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, Garcia said.

She said the use of boats intended exclusively for recreational purposes for the transport of materials or towing of vessels transporting construction materials for the illegal structures violates Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) Memorandum Circular DS-2019-01 that requires all recreational boats to be used solely for that purpose.

Saving Cordova’s tourism industry

The governor stepped in after newly elected Cordova Mayor Cesar “Didoy” Suan sought her help on the unregulated floating and fixed cottages on the shores of Cordova that now number over 300, Sugbo News, the official news platform of the Cebu Provincial Capitol, reported Wednesday, August 10, 2022.

The governor called on agencies to prevent a marine disaster and help save Cordova’s tourism industry.

“We need your help and Marina. This is a time that we all collaborate forces because we are trying to preserve the waters of Cordova so it can continue to be a tourist destination. The way this is going, in about a matter of time, this will practically be killing the goose that lays the golden egg. This is also a marine disaster waiting (to happen). If the fish are affected, wala na rin ang primary means of livelihood,” Garcia said in the news report.

In her EO 19, Garcia said the illegal structures were built along easement zones in violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 1067, instituting the Water Code of the Philippines, as well as Cebu Provincial Ordinance 2021-01 or the Water Code of the Province of Cebu, that identify the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage and fishing.

Under Article 51 of PD 1067, or 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, 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage. No person shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing or salvage or to build structures of any kind.”

Garcia also cited Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2021-07 that stipulates that lands bordering seas, gulfs, bays, or ports are subject to easements in accordance with environmental laws.

Provide relocation, cash aid

To help the cottage operators, the governor proposed providing these cottage operators with a relocation site and cash assistance.

“What is the solution? You know we are going to stop their livelihood. They will no longer be earning. Now for how long? What is in store for them? That is what needs to be answered. So that they can be convinced that this is really after all for the greater good and for the future,” Sugbo News quoted Garcia as saying.

The Provincial Government will meet with the Cordova Municipal Government, the agencies concerned and cottage operators and those living near the docking sites to address the problem.

Last July 18, Cordova Mayor Suan threatened to close floating cottages in the town should the owners fail to provide adequate comfort rooms within the week.

But a week later, on July 25, Suan said he learned that an operator of floating cottages insisted on putting additional cottages on the town’s coast.

Suan added that five sacks of garbage could be seen under about 150 to 200 fixed cottages in the town during his surprise inspection last July 24.

Suan issued his very first executive order last July 5, prohibiting the construction of illegal structures such as floating cottages along legal easements and within the town’s coastal areas. He issued the order after he received a letter from the DENR concerning the floating cottages operating in Barangays Poblacion and Catarman as these areas are considered no-build zones.

Aside from being illegally constructed along easements, Suan said most of the floating and fixed cottages were built without any permit or clearance from the Municipal Government. The mayor also ordered the barangay chiefs of the town and other offices to cease issuing any permit or clearance for individuals operating floating cottages within their jurisdiction.

The DENR’s Administrative Order 2021-07 states that legal easements are “determined to be applied, such that, a three-meter easement zone and a 20-meter easement zone shall be adopted for urban and rural areas, respectively.”

In her EO, Garcia called on the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Naval Forces Central and the Marina to implement her EO 19, s. of 2022 in conjunction with EO 1, s. of 2022 issued by Cordova Mayor Suan. (CTL)