The municipal government of Coron will issue 90-day temporary permits to operate to 414 business establishments which were previously cited by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for coastal easement zone violations.
Town mayor Ajerico Barracoso explained that the temporary permits will be valid until such time the DENR has already made a decision on the conflict between the Water Code, which calls for a 40-meter easement for timberland areas and Republic Act 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) law that allowed the occupation of areas beyond three meters from the highest tide.
Of the figure, 73 establishments were ordered to vacate the easement, 191 the timberland areas, and for 150 to conform to DENR requirements that are supposedly easy to accomplish.
“Sabi ko bibigyan ko kayo ng palugit. Binigyan ko sila ng mga termporary permits habang inaayos nila ang problema sa DENR. Sabi nila baka pwede silang payagan na mag-operate habang inaasikaso ang mga papel. Kaya ayan 90 days temporary business permit,” he said.
Barracoso said before they issued the provisional permits, all requesting parties were asked to sign affidavits to ensure their compliance once the DENR has already made its decision.
He said among the compliances the DENR requires from the establishments is the Forest Land Use Agreement for Tourism or FLAgT which authorizes the occupation, management, and development of any forest land for tourism purposes for a period of 25 years.
It applies to special uses of forest lands such as eco-tourism destinations and other tourism activities.
He said many of the establishments that were issued notices of violations regarding the FLAgT have pending applications before the DENR, but the agency has taken long in providing them.
“Hindi pa po lahat nabigyan na ng temporary permits. Pero mayroon naman tayong iilan na binigyan na, ‘yong mga mayroon ng affidavit. Hinihingi daw ay ang FLAgT pero sabi nila sa DENR, they have already applied for this matagal na. I am not against the DENR but ang iba kasi years na rin po [nakapag-apply pero hanggang ngayon wala pa rin],” he said.
In separate local media interviews, Barracoso said further that many of the establishments are holding titles to properties that are being occupied by their structures.
Some have SEP clearances that were issued by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (SEP) and some have forest land use agreements.
“‘Yong mga sulat ng DENR sa kanila ay sinagot na rin nila. As per instruction ng DENR [sa akin], ‘mayor, sabihan mo na lang ang mga affected na ‘yan, ang mga sinulatan na sagutin na lang nila.’ Ang iba kasi nagsagot, eh. Ang karamihan nagsabi ang sa akin private property, ako ay mag-FLAgT, ako ay may environmental compliance certificate (ECC), ako ay may SEP clearance, bakit ako gigibain. Karamihan ‘yan ang tanong nila,” Barracoso said.
He said they are currently waiting for the reply of the legal team of the DENR after being told that the cited businesses should reply one by one.
Barracoso said these are valid concerns that his leadership cannot ignore that is why he has not yet issued any demolition order.
He reiterated that if Republic Act 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines will be implemented in Coron, it will affect more than the number of business establishments that have been cited by the DENR.
Barracoso said that on their zoning ordinance and Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), three meters were allowed based on the SEP law supervised by the PCSD.
“Ang dinatnan ko kasi as mayor ay three meters setback na ang ginagamit pero sa notices ng DENR 40 meters. Marami ang tatamaan… in fact, more than pa sa sinasabi ng DENR,” he added.
Meanwhile, Palawan board member Winston Arzaga said he supports the move of Coron because the town should implement and follow the SEP law.
Let the court decide, he said, because the 40-meter set back the national government is imposing is no longer applicable to the province.
“Go ahead and issue necessary permits, go ahead, let the DENR question it before the court. You are just following what is provided in R.A. 7611. You have to stand and implement what is right, let the court decide as you serve the interest of the community. It is good that during the chaos, you clarified your stand,” Arzaga said.