Manila, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has given owners of the illegal structures on Panglao Island, Bohol six months to demolish these or charges would be filed against them.
Cimatu issued the directive after inspecting the shorelines of Alona Beach in Barangay Tawala, Panglao town, on Tuesday morning where he found several structures along the 20-meter easement zone.
Although Cimatu didn’t give any figures, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said 87 establishments violated the easement zone in Barangays Tawala, Bolod, Libaong and Danao in Panglao town, and Barangay Bingag in Dauis town.
Panglao Island, considered crown jewel of Bohol’s tourism, is composed of the towns of Panglao and Dauis.
Cimatu inspected on Tuesday the structures along Alona Beach, named after actress Alona Alegre who ran naked along the white sand beach in 1973 for the movie “Esteban” with Fernando Poe Jr.
But Cimatu, who had been in Bohol since Monday, didn’t inspect the septic tanks and wastewater facilities of the establishments in Panglao.
The DENR earlier identified the lack of septage treatment facility and “bottomless” septic tanks as among the problems contributing to the environmental woes of the island.
As of March 7, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), an attached agency of DENR, identified 344 establishments in Panglao without valid discharge permits.
Among the structures ordered removed by Cimatu were the marker of the Hennan Resort and half of its pool that were on the easement zone.
Cimatu also told a representative of Dataland Inc. that its ongoing construction of a 12-story beachfront hotel on Alona Beach was illegal.
The structure was declared illegal by the Office of the Building Official of the Panglao municipal government after its building permit was recalled more than eight months after it was issued for violation of the municipal zooming ordinance and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Marcelina Mejos, 70, who has a store on Alona Beach, said she would follow the order.
“I will volunteer to move. I just put movable umbrellas here and sell some fruits instead,” she said.
But some owners explained to Cimatu that their buildings were on the easement zone because of the first measurement conducted by personnel of the DENR personnel several years ago.
Resort and dive shop owners told Cimatu that they would follow the order if other business owners would also comply.
“We will follow, but not only us but for all so that it would be fair,” Mike, a dive shop owner said.
Cimatu said the problem in Panglao was not as bad as Boracay Island, which was earlier described by President Duterte as a “cesspool.”
Ernesto Pernia, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief and Socio-economic Planning Secretary, who was with Cimatu during the inspection, said the government is serious in cleaning the island.
“The level of awareness among resort owners in Panglao has been raised to high level,” said Pernia, a native of Bohol.
He admitted that while Bohol has an environment code enacted in 1998, the local officials lacked the will to enforce it that led to several environmental violations in Panglao.
“I think our government official, especially the local government officials, should be more watchful and vigilant. And they should implement and enforce rules and regulations vigorously in a sustained manner,” Pernia said.