Ramirez: Include officials

Nestor Ramirez

THE imposition by the Provincial Government to demolish 420 structures illegally built on the shorelines of at least four barangays in the town of Samboan is laudable. However Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia should also look into the liability of public officials who slept on their regulatory function.

The governor should not be contented with the promise of voluntary demolition by the owners. The Province must also pin down barangay and municipal officials who failed to implement the law that prohibits structures on the easement along bodies of water.

Identifying those who are liable and imposing a punishment on them would ensure that all those who are tasked with the power to regulate the establishment of structures within the easement area will perform their duties in order that the general public can enjoy the unobstructive use of the shoreline.

What is sad in this situation is that even if all the illegal structures would be toppled, the indiscriminate illegal construction has already brought irreparable damage to the natural state of the shoreline.

If we follow protocol and logic, the campaign against illegal structures on shorelines and river banks starts with the barangays and then the municipal level before the provincial government would take cognizance of the problem because they are the ones on the outset commencing from the mere attempt to build.

Article 51 of Presidential Decree 1067 provides that: “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.”

In general, all the troubles that we are facing are already covered by laws or ordinances but the situation gets more complicated each day because of the failure or defiance of some local officials to exercise their regulatory duties under the law, maybe due to familiarity or affinity with the culprits.

The only way to ensure order in our community is to force or even coerce public officials to exercise their duties or face the prospect of being removed from their respective posts due to their failure to perform their duties.

As a former reporter, I covered the town of Santander several times some 20 years ago passing through the scenic and rustic municipality of Samboan and it is incomparable nowadays because you can hardly see the shorelines due to the structures that sprouted brought by the burgeoning economy in the area.

One thing is sure, the illegal structures did not appear so quickly that the local officials didn’t have the time to react appropriately. They knew about it from the start and they turned a blind eye on the violation until the feisty governor made her move and ordered the demolition of the structures.

Now that the governor has started to flex muscles against violators of environmental laws, bringing to court erring officials would serve as some sort of rude awakening for public officials who fell in deep slumber while enjoying their hefty government pay.