Garcia stops construction of floating cottages in Cordova town

·3 min read

CEBU Gov. 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 Aug. 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, Aug. 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 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 Presidential Decree 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.