RESORT OWNERS and residents in Oslob, a southern Cebu town popular for whale shark watching, have committed to voluntarily demolish parts of their structures that have encroached the easement zone. In exchange for their pledge, the 20-meter easement zone has been cut back to three meters. Last Monday, Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia, along with regional directors from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DoT), and representatives from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), met with residents of four coastal villages to discuss their compliance to the easement zone. Under the 20-meter standard, 420 structures, both residential and commercial, have been found in violation of the zoning law. Of these, 157 are commercial establishments and the rest residential.
Article 51 of the Water Code of the Philippines prohibits the building of infrastructure within specified easement zones. “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,” the provision states. “No person shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing or salvage or to build structures of any kind.” It was agreed during the meeting that the coastal villages meet the requirements to be classified as urban barangays. For a barangay to attain an urban classification, it must have a population of 5,000 residents, host a commercial establishment with 100 employees or five commercial establishments with at least ten employees each. The four barangays are the first of 15 in Oslob to have completed the inspection and inventory of establishments. — The Freeman