PALAWAN, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday, April 19, started serving eviction notices to 75 business owners in Coron town, and gave them 30 days to remove and self-demolish their structures built on the waters and within the easement zones.
“It is clear in the law that there should be no structures built on these areas. We are just implementing what’s in the law to protect and keep Coron clean, orderly, and beautiful,” engineer Roman Legaspi, head of Task Force Coron, said.
The inter-governmental agency Task Force Coron started serving eviction notices to erring establishments located in 4 barangays: Tagumpay, Poblacion 1, Poblacion 3, and Poblacion 5.
These establishments include hotels, restaurants, dive shops, laundry shops, and lodging and boarding houses.
The Philippines’ Water Code prohibits occupation of river banks, sea shores, and lakes within a zone of 3 meters in urban areas and 40 meters in forest areas. Barangay Tagumpay is classified as timberland, the rest are classified as urban areas.
Meanwhile, the Philippines’ Civil Code defines shores “and others of similar character” as public property, and declares as “nuisance” the establishment, business or condition of property, or anything else which obstructs or interferes with the free passage of any body of water.
Coron is famous for its pristine island beaches and breathtaking landscapes. It receives an increasing number of tourists every year, with an estimate of 178,000 tourists recorded in 2016.
The influx of tourists prompted the proliferation of business establishments, some of which not only encroached easement zones, but were also found to have contributed to water pollution by discharging untreated wastewater directly into Coron Bay.
This aggravated Coron’s water problem, which is mainly attributed to the town’s lack of a centralized wastewater treatment facility.
“That’s why it’s not only encroachment we will look into. We will ensure business establishments are following the laws on proper solid waste and wastewater disposal, and other environmental laws,” Legaspi said.
DENR Mimaropa Regional Director Natividad Bernardino warned establishment owners affected by the cleanup drive in Coron and elsewhere in the region not to deal with impostors posing as DENR officials.
“We urge you not to deal with people who obviously want to extort from business owners,” she said.
DENR officials in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan had been receiving calls and text messages from unknown persons, pretending to be Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and seeking copies of establishments that were issued notices.
Cimatu’s office had been informed about the incident, and thus advised DENR Mimaropa to take appropriate security measures.
“DENR does not authorize anyone to deal with business owners other than members of the Task Forces, which are tasked to lead the cleanup and rehabilitation of beaches in Coron, El Nido, and Puerto Galera,” Bernardino said. – Rappler.com
Image of Coron from Shutterstock