French investor Matthieu Deporcaro has poured his lifetime personal savings on a property he has leased from a Filipino owner, building a resort near the beach in Corong-Corong, El Nido. He began his project in December 2017, spending over P6 million ($120,000) in a 1,200-square meter property which he leased for 15 years at a P75,000 monthly rental.
He said he thought he had everything in place and his construction was proceeding on schedule – land title, clearances from government offices including a building permit issued by the municipal engineer. He had a municipal zoning clearance, a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance issued by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and an endorsement from the barangay.
Early this week, he was among an initial list of 79 building establishment owners notified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as having violated the easement zoning and was told to voluntarily demolish his structure. The DENR action came on the heels of a government shutdown of Boracay for environmental law violations.
The DENR, which has eyed El Nido and Coron as among its priority concerns next to Boracay, has given affected establishment and residential owners in El Nido 30 days to demolish.
“I don’t know what to do now if I will stop the construction or not. If I will lose that, I will lose everything,” Deporcaro told Palawan News.
Forester Leo Empleo, senior forest management specialist of DENR-MIMAROPA, said they are targeting to serve all the notices of violation this week.
“Maliban sa mga existing na mga hotels at mga buildings na nandyan na, ay merong under construction na kasama sa nabigyan ng notice,” he said.
It turned out Deporcaro’s hotel, within 10 meters of the high tide line, was well within the 40-meter easement defined under the Philippine Water Code. What he said he didn’t understand, was why he was given all the permits he applied for before he proceeded with his hotel project.
Empleo said he was aware of Deporcaro’s predicament and had advised the French national to meet with DENR regional officials visiting the town this week.
“I advised them to attend the meeting with the regional director (of DENR) to shed light on various issues,” he said, adding that the DENR will scrutinize his permits.
Sought by Palawan News about the case of Deporcaro, the municipal engineer was not available as he had filed for a work leave.
Empleo said that he is not in the position to tell or advice Deporcaro to stop the ongoing construction of his building, but he told Palawan News that issues like this will be thoroughly discussed during the meeting of the DENR regional director due for a visit.
Bienvinido Veguilla Jr., a forest ranger assigned to the DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources Office El Nido said that almost all establishments in Corong-Corong are located within the timberland area.
“Halos lahat ng establishments sa Corong-Corong ay nabigyan ng notice, pinapa-comply sila within 30 days sa DENR regional office. Ibig sabihin, dapat by May 2018 ay nakapag-submit na sila dito ng kanilang mga documents tulad ng titulo,” he added.
Belle Florendo, a volunteer assisting some of the affected establishments, appealed to the DENR to slow down on its order for demolition.
“Sana ay mabigyan pa ng consideration ng DENR kasi marami na sa kanila [ang] nagbuhos na ng kanilang investments. Malaking pera tapos magigiba lang pala, kawawa naman,” she told Palawan News in an interview.
She lamented that these establishment owners were not informed prior to the construction about the classification of the land, believing that their occupation was legal with the issuance of building permits and other certifications from the government.