Silot Bay case needs review

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Thursday, February 6, 2014


SOME residents and officials in Liloan town agreed yesterday to draft and approve a resolution seeking the review of the Silot Bay case, after the erection of a fence there provoked complaints.

Mayor Vincent “Duke” Frasco, who attended a public consultation yesterday, said that the town has sent three notices of illegal construction, which asked lawyer Democrito Mendoza to stop and remove the fence.

Consultation participants agreed that to ask all 14 barangay councils in the northern Cebu town to support the resolution.

The Mendoza family, however, said through a spokesman that it is inaccurate for any person to say that the entire Silot Bay belongs to and has been fenced by them.

A press statement sent by Arturo Barrit of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) said that Silot Bay spans around 500 hectares, and the Supreme Court (SC) had awarded to the Mendozas only around 92 hectares.

Only the portion of Silot Bay awarded to the Mendozas has been fenced, Barrit said. A sign placed in the disputed property also states that the fence was meant to warn people against swimming in the area, where others have previously drowned.

The Capitol, for its part, promised to assist lawyers who will represent the Silot Bay fishermen.

“We are now reviewing the case. I’ve asked the Provincial Legal Office to retrieve the documents because according to the lawyers, we can still do something,” said Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale in a separate interview.

Last Sunday, some residents, resort owners and fishermen held a rally to question the fencing of Silot Bay, where they said they used to fish or swim.

2007 ruling

Mendoza’s family, who holds a sales patent and original certificate of title, was granted ownership of a portion of the bay by a Supreme Court ruling in 2007.

That decision, dated March 28, 2007, says in part: “If the titles of innocent buyers were recognized and protected in the afore-mentioned circumstances, even when the original title to the property was obtained through fraud, then the titles of the purchasers in good faith and for value of the fishpond areas in the present case better deserve our recognition and protection.”

Mendoza is one of the founders of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and owner of Papa Kits Marina and Fishing Lagoon in Liloan.

His family’s decision to fence a portion of the bay has provoked protests.

Claudia Marana, 80, a resident of Barangay Catarman, said in yesterday’s consultation that Silot Bay has long been a source of food and livelihood for her community.

“Iya tanan na sa tawo. Dili na kang Kito (All of that belongs to the people, not just to Kito),” Marana said, using the labor leader’s nickname.

Scared of guards?

Another resident urged the others to request an inspection by the town officials so they will see for themselves if the area should be titled.

Myrna Pepito, a barangay councilor, said they may ask the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to look into the area so that the proper easement—an area where no structures should be put up—will be implemented.

Some of the residents who talked during the dialogue expressed their fear of security guards who allegedly shoot anyone who goes beyond the fence.

The legal team formed during the consultation will draft the resolution to be sent to the Supreme Court, seeking a review of the case.

Local officials in another committee will be responsible for giving updates to the people about the case. Residents also agreed to raise funds that will be used for the review.

Mayor Frasco is set to meet with Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III on Feb. 14 to talk about the matter.

Frasco said that the town has sent three notices of illegal construction, which asked Mendoza to stop and remove the fence within Silot Bay. The first notice was sent on Jan. 20, followed by another on Jan. 21 and again on Jan. 24.

‘Just markers’

Frasco said that Mendoza replied those were “just markers” after several accidents, like drowning, happened in the area.

“It was agreed with the public that the barangay captains of every barangay of the municipality of Liloan will pass a resolution to the Sangguniang Bayan and then the Sangguniang Bayan will send a resolution to the Office of the President, the solicitor-general and the Province of Cebu, with regards to the review of the case that was decided on by the Supreme Court back in March 2007,” Frasco told reporters.

The mayor said the town sent the first notice after officials heard about the construction in Silot Bay.

A representative of Mendoza and Menca Development Corp. was sent to the mayor’s office, where they took up the people’s concerns.

They are “very open and willing” to help, Frasco said.

Last Thursday, the mayor had a talk with Mendoza over the phone and informed him that they are willing to cooperate.

Agreement

The Mendozas, through Barrit, said yesterday that fishing or gathering seashells inside Silot Bay is not prohibited, but it is regulated inside the titled property of the Mendozas to protect the environment.

He said a memorandum of agreement (MOA) will soon be signed by all stakeholders of Silot Bay, including at least four barangays, to regulate fishing in the area to preserve marine life.

“The Mendozas are preserving the mangroves and nipa plants in the area to protect the environment so that every person who is looking into the future of the next generations must cooperate,” Barrit said.

People remain free to swim and fish in Silot Bay, he said, and boatmen are not blocked.

He said that what the Mendozas are putting up is a demarcation line for the property near the entrance of the bay.

Lifeguards

“It won’t block the passage in going inside the bay. Bisan ang barko ni Maria Cacao klaro ug tataw kaayo nga makaagi”,(Even the vessel of Maria Cacao can navigate the area),” read Mendoza’s statement.

Maria Cacao is a figure from Visayan folklore who floats down a river in a golden ship, to bring and sell the harvest to the towns.

Barrit said a sign placed near the fence was intended to warn bathers that others had drowned in the area.

“The guards posted in the area serve as lifeguards,” Barrit said.

He said the Mendozas got the titles of the 92 hectares through administrative and judicial processes up to the Supreme Court.

“The case is already final and executory. Even if it’s a decision of the Third Division of the Supreme Court, still it is the decision of the Supreme Court,” the statement further reads.

At the Capitol, the vice governor said that since 1998, the people have been asking for help with the Silot Bay case. She said they won the case in the Regional Trial Court and Court of Appeals, but they lost in the Supreme Court in 2007.

“But I was told by lawyers who came today from Liloan that we lost the case by a technicality, Magpale said.

“We are behind the people, kung unsa gyud ang makatarunganon (and are seeking justice),” Magpale said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 06, 2014.

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