Hundreds of Cordova pump boat, cottage owners to lose livelihood

·5 min read

STAKEHOLDERS of the floating and fixed cottages in Cordova town on Mactan Island have expressed disappointment over the short period of time they have been allowed to continue operating before the temporary closure of their cottages for the rehabilitation of the seawaters.

Mabel Daro, who serves as president of the fixed cottages owners association in Barangays Catarman and Poblacion, told SunStar Cebu on Thursday, August 18, 2022, that the number of days given by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for them to operate is not enough.

During the stakeholders meeting at Cordova Sports Complex last Wednesday, Garcia had given the floating and fixed cottage owners in the town only until August 28 to operate before rehabilitation is undertaken of the seawaters, where the fecal coliform level has exceeded the allowable level presumably amid the unregulated establishment of cottages on and along the coast without proper restrooms.

“It’s really not enough. Now for the 10 days extension we’ve been given, we’re even having a hard time because of the (boat) transport. That’s why the other (customers) just left. So we still don’t have business,” said Daro in Cebuano, following the directive of Garcia on Wednesday that only those bangka or pump boats licensed or accredited with the Maritime Industry Authority will be permitted to ferry passengers to and from the floating and fixed cottages within the coastal waters of the town starting Thursday, August 18.

Daro said there are about 300 commercial fixed cottages in the town, which are operated by about 70 owners. Apart from that, there are also about 103 floating cottages currently operating in the seawaters of Cordova.

Daro, who also owns one floating and one fixed cottage, said she has been operating for about three years in the town and that she has no other means of living.

“Even if we don’t consent, we can’t do anything because they say we’re operating illegally,” said Daro, stressing that they tried to reach out to the barangay and the local government of Cordova to allow them to continue their operations.

As for their income, she said the rent customers pay for the cottages depends on the capacity, but everything is negotiable.

Daro said the directive of Garcia allowing only duly licensed bangka or pump boats to ferry passengers to and from floating and fixed cottages has caused a hassle in their remaining days of operations.

“That is what has caused a hassle, especially to our guests, because we cannot just simply bring them to the cottage we had booked them in. And the guests also prepared. All we receive are complaints from those who booked,” said Daro.

For customers who wanted to push through with their bookings, Daro said they just asked them to walk by themselves to and from the fixed and floating cottages.

Daro said this has prompted some cottage owners themselves to ask their customers to cancel their bookings to avoid inconvenience.

“There’s nothing we can offer now because the others would get tired walking because they have children with them as well as their belongings to carry,” she added.

Daro clarified that they have nothing against the rehabilitation of the seawaters, particularly in the vicinity of the commercial cottages. But since the government could not yet give a specific time frame on when the rehabilitation process would end, Daro said they do not know where they will go now.

Daro said they had asked for livelihood assistance from the local government unit (LGU) now that their operations will be temporarily halted, but none has been given.

Cordova Mayor Cesar “Didoy” Suan, who aims to make the floating and fixed cottages “world class,” has yet to answer SunStar Cebu’s queries on the assistance the LGU could give the affected stakeholders.

Boat operators

Melchur Angco, pump boat owner for about three years, said there are less than 500 operators who ferry customers of the cottages in the town. Angco, however, said most of them, including him, have no license to operate.

Angco said his pump boat could cater to only a maximum of six passengers and that this could not ferry passengers for activities such as island hopping.

He said they could earn only about P10 per passenger whenever they ferry them to and from fixed cottages and P20 for floating cottages, which are farther from the shore.

Angco, a father of six students, said they would be happy if Garcia would allow them to operate despite their having no license, as they have no other means of living.

Law enforcers who stationed themselves on Thursday morning at the Bantayan Bay in Barangay Catarman said no operator had violated the governor’s directive.

During the stakeholders meeting Wednesday, Garcia had explained that she could be the one to be held accountable should there be untoward incidents involving the unlicensed pump boats ferrying the customers of the cottages if she would allow them to continue to operate commercially.

During the stakeholders’ meeting at the Cordova gym in Barangay Poblacion, officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR 7) said a second water quality check in Cordova’s coastal waters revealed that the fecal coliform level (FCL) along areas where fixed and floating cottages were present had reached 2,400 most probable number (mpn) per 100 milliliters.

The standard FCL for coastal waters to consider them safe for swimming and other similar recreational activities is 100 mpn per 100 milliliters, according to the DENR.

The FCL found during the DENR 7’s second water quality check on Aug. 10 was close to twice the amount found during its first water quality check in July this year, which was 1,300 mpn per 100 milliliters.

Garcia said that aside from the fixed and floating cottages in the town, the temporary public market in Barangay Catarman was among the three contributors to the high FCL found along Cordova’s coast.

Suan is set to transfer its vendors to a brand-new market facility at least six months from now.

To prevent further contamination of the town’s coast, Suan said they will implement proper solid and liquid waste management at the temporary public market and in Barangays Catarman and Poblacion.