LGUs duty-bound to demolish illegal structures within shorelines
Cebu City (8 September) -- As the country observes the Coastal Protection Month this September, local government units (LGUs) have the primary responsibility to demolish illegal structures built along the riverbanks and shorelines that violate the Water Code of the Philippines.
This developed amid the confusion whether the lead agency should be the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) or the LGUs that should lead the demolition of illegal structures within the easement zone of a riverbank, seashore or stream.
DENR-7 Coastal and Marine Management Division Chief Edmondo Arregadas bared they have a list of illegal structures in Cebu and that they have apprised the respective LGUs about this so they can act on the matter.
But questions were raised on why the DENR-7 could not directly enforce the law which Arregadas replied that before any illegal structure could be constructed, this would pass through the LGU for the necessary building permit.
"The local government unit has the primary duty to enforce the law so they should be the ones to tear down the illegal structures within their area of responsibility," Arregadas stressed.
Arregadas clarified that although building structures also need to obtain an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the DENR before they can proceed with the construction but this is more on other environmental concerns like pollution which is under the Environmental Management Bureau of their agency and not under the Coastal and Marine Management Division.
Although the problem lies because most of these illegal structures especially in riverbanks are shanties so they just squat in these areas even at the risk of endangering their lives during flashfloods, according to Arregadas.
There are LGUs that really urged residents residing in riverbanks to vacate the area not only because this is against the law but because it poses a risk to their lives, Arregadas said.
Arregadas said the pleas of some LGUs fall on deaf ears as residents refused to vacate their shanties within the easement zone of a riverbank. And demolishing these shanties would somehow present another problem to the LGU with regards to relocation site for the displaced residents, this is said.
In the case of shorelines, most violators are resort owners or commercial establishments that require the necessary permit to operate from the LGU, Arregadas said.
Arregadas cited some establishments in Lapulapu City where resorts abound with some violating PD 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines as he emphasized that in the first place, these establishments should not have been given a building permit from the respective LGU.
The zone is "subject to the easement of public use" including for recreation, navigation, and fishing where the distance for agricultural areas should be 20 meters, and three meters for urban areas and 40 meters for forest areas, this is learned.
Cebu Provincial Attorney Marino Martinquilla also expressed his opinion that LGUs are duty-bound to implement the law in their area although the DENR on its part could also enforce the law but it has to be coordinated with the LGU concerned.
Arregadas said that it is only proper that the DENR-7 should first inform the LGUs about the existence of the illegal structures for demolition as this is within their jurisdiction and it is improper for the DENR team to just tear down structures without informing such problem with the LGU.
Martinquilla said one of the problems why implementation of environmental laws is overlooked is because of the absence of an environmental officer in every municipality.
"There is no plantilla for municipal environmental officer under the Local Government Code so the hiring of one is not mandated," according to Martinquilla.
Martinquilla said Provincial Board Member Thadeo Ouano who chairs the Committee on Environment plans to come up with a Provincial Environmental Code to address issues and concerns in the environment.
Both Arregadas and Martinquilla were guests in the PIA Kapihan this morning that tackled on ?Coastal Issues in Cebu and Measures To Protect the Coastal and Marine Environment? that also had representatives from the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coastguard, the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fishereis and Aquatic Resources. (PIA-Cebu/FCR) [top]