Huge fines await Kawasan easement zone violators

Rona Joyce T. Fernandez

PENALTIES ranging from P10,000 to P200,000 a day await tour operators in Kawasan Falls, Badian town, southern Cebu who will continue to operate structures that encroach the 20-meter easement zone of the famed tourist attraction.

However, the deadline for tour operators to voluntarily tear down their structures was moved to January 20, 2020 instead of Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

“They asked for more time since they will still have to call for a general assembly on Jan. 15, 2020,” said Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia following a meeting with members of the Kawasan Falls Cooperative this week.

Garcia met anew with tour operators on Tuesday, Nov. 19, to discuss her order to tear down their illegal structures.

The Provincial Government is standing pat on its move to ensure the preservation of the famous waterways which now has 32 concrete cottages, 16 comfort rooms with 18 septic tank chambers, four dressing rooms and 77 picnic sheds all illegally constructed within the designated easement zone, according to a report from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office

During their meeting, members of the Cooperative reiterated their commitment to voluntarily clear their structures that violated the easement zone but sought for an extension of the demolition period given to them by the governor.

Last Oct. 30, Garcia gave tour operators a month to clear the illegal structures.

One tour operator expressed opposition to the governor’s clearing orders.

Emma Saldua, who started operating facilities in Kawasan during the ‘90s reportedly refused to tear down her structures.

Garcia said Saldua did not attend both meetings. Instead, the tour operator allegedly posted a tarpaulin in Kawasan declaring her opposition to the Provincial Government.

Aside from encroaching on the easement zone, it was also found that the Salduas had been operating their concrete cottages without building permits from the Municipality of Badian.

Moreoever, the Salduas reportedly failed to secure an environmental compliance certificate from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7 which should include sanitary and discharge permits for the comfort rooms and septic tanks they are operating in the famous tourist destination.

“The EMB will issue a notice of violation... After which, they will forward the matter to the pollution adjudication board, which will determine how much should they pay in fines per day to be reckoned from the start of operations,” Garcia said.

Aside from the fines, town officials are also mulling the cancellation of the Salduas’ business permit.

“For those who have committed to clear their structures, they may continue their business and operate, but the Salduas can no longer do so once the local government unit cancels their business permit,” Garcia said.