A Provincial Board member on Wednesday insisted the government must share the blame on the plight of business establishments now being evicted from no-build zones in El Nido.
Board Member Albert Rama told Palawan News that the municipal government and national government agencies, including the provincial government, committed “lapses” when they issued endorsements, clearances and permits to businesses, which now either encroach on coastal easement or occupy a forestland-classified area in town.
Rama, who heads the board’s environmental protection committee, said there was “negligence on the part of the government” during the time businesses were building their structures.
“So it’s not only them who are at fault, there’s also fault on the part of the government,” he said.
Rama said these government officials should have been aware of the violations committed by establishments but still allowed them to continue with their businesses.
“Had the government been keen, this wouldn’t have happened. There were rules, laws that could have been implemented, but it still happened. There’s something wrong. Something wrong happened along the way,” he said.
Business establishment owners were complaining that the local and national governments want them evicted despite having complete permits and clearances. Prior to building their structures, affected businesspersons claimed they were not informed of the environmental policies in place.
“This is an eye-opener to everyone. Now we know there were shortcomings and lapses. Of course, we have to correct these, especially the permitting,” Rama said, adding that he will pass a provincial ordinance streamlining the permitting process.
In the developed coastal village of Corong-Corong, hoteliers who hold land titles were surprised when they were told their occupation in the area could be illegal since it was declared as timberland as early as 1935.
This land classification by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), however, runs in conflict with the municipal government’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan that designates it for commercial purposes, hence the issuance of business permits.
Rama said the environmental protection committee might hold a stakeholders’ forum in town to gather the sentiments and suggestions of the affected business owners.
“We will ask them to send us a position paper so we can be guided accordingly,” he added.
Rama also appealed to the DENR to allow gradual self-demolition of the affected business establishments, instead of only giving them 30 days.
“Not abrupt but gradual demolition of their structures, considering they’ve poured investments into their businesses and they’ve contributed a lot to the development of our tourism industry,” he said.