By Noel Cabobos
BORACAY ISLAND—Business owners who filed an Injunction case against the local government find themselves in a rather delicate situation here today after the agency tasked by the President to clean up and establish order on this island started demolishing their properties for allegedly encroaching the beach easement mark.
Undertaken by the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG), the blitzkrieg-like demolition has been ordered by the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force headed by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu following the expiration on Nov. 5 of the 20-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by Judge Ronald Exmundo of the Kalibo Regional Trial Court.
It may be recalled that on October 15, Exmundo issued the TRO in favor of the owners of 10 residential and commercial buildings along Bulabog beach comprised of Aira Hotel, Ventoso Residences, Freestyle Academy Kite Surfing School, Kite Center at Banana Bay, Wind Riders Inn, Pahuwayan Suites, Boracay Gems, Unit 101 of 7 Stones Boracay Suites, Unit 107 of 7 Stones Boracay Suites, and Lumbung Residences.
The group’s lawyer, Atty. Salvador Paolo Panelo Jr., son and namesake of presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, said that the issuance of the TRO against the demolition was warranted.
“The law is clear. There can be no demolition of homes, shops, small hotels and similar structures unless authorized by the Court after a full trial. Without a trial and a Court order, demolition amounts to the taking of property without due process of law, and is unconstitutional,” he further said.
The demolition of structures, said to be encroaching the easement mark, aims to clear Bulabog beach of obstructions in favor of the government’s plan to construct an access road in the area.
Natividad Bernardino, general manager of the Task Force, said that the complainants are the only remaining “non-compliant” to the 25+5-meter easement along the beach which originally number to 300. “Of the 52 non-compliant in the Bulabog beach, only 10 are remaining and these are the establishments which were the subject of the TRO,” she said.
The 25 meters beach easement is measured from the mean high water mark (the annual average of high and low tide levels) to the shoreline. The added five meters has been imposed for the beach path.
“We have to show the government’s resolve in establishing order in Boracay and we have been fair enough in the enforcement of regulations here. Their structures have encroached on the easement so they have to be demolished just like the others,” she noted.
Panelo claimed, however, that he will prove “during trial that the new 25+5 line is not even correct because it’s not measured from the Mean High Water Mark as required by the applicable law, i.e. Malay Municipal Ordinance No. 131, Series of 2000. The new 25+5 line is thus arbitrary, and contrary to law.”
Secretary Cimatu, for his part, stressed that the easement rule has to be enforced on all non-compliant structures which continue to violate the 30-meter beach easement, a measure which was strictly imposed following the closure of this island for six months to give way for massive cleanup and repair works.
“We need to clear the easement of obstructions and complete the circumferential road in Sitio Bulabog. Without the road, the garbage in that area cannot be collected, ambulance and fire trucks could not also penetrate the area during emergency situations,” he underscored.
Boracay closed for six months starting on April 26 last year on the heels of indiscriminate violation of laws threatening its environment. Prior to the closure, the President in various instances said the island has become a cesspool due to the blatant disregard of environmental laws.
The affected businessmen, however, insisted that their properties were built in compliance with all the rules and regulations as prescribed by law. They even claimed they were issued the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and other necessary clearances and permits by both the local government of Malay and the DENR. Lawyer Noel Empleo of the BIARMG, said that the issue is the easement law and not the ECC.
They claimed that the boundary measurements which is being enforced by the Task Force along Bulabog beach violates the easement rule. (RadyoTodo/88.5FM)