Editorial: No-build zones

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

IT'S good that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is spearheading efforts to “weave” the lessons learned from the damage wrought by super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas into its planned foreshore area master plan.

At least some sectors in government are doing their job.

That master plan includes the delineation of no-build zones 40 meters from the coast line. That would mean clearing coastal areas vulnerable to storm surges and moving structures inland.

DENR has admitted that there are some issues that need to be attended to in managing foreshore lands.

Among these are unauthorized or illegal reclamation, wrong development from foreshore to offshore, the existence of massive landfills, uncontrolled entry of informal settlers, etc.

Indeed, the setting up of no-build zones needs the help of local government officials if it were to be implemented fully.

But judging from the way these officials have been allowing private entities and residents to build structures along the shore, its implementation might suffer.

Setting up no-build zones markers in Tacloban, the city hardest hit by Yolanda’s winds and the storm surge it spawned, might not be difficult considering that the old structures there are gone.

But doing that in other areas like Cebu might be difficult.

The experience of the Cebu City Government can be an example. It could not even clear its waterways like Mahiga Creek of illegal structures set up by private establishments and informal settlers.

And what about the possible resistance that informal settlers will put up in, say, the city’s coastal barangays?

In the early ‘90s, then governor Vicente de la Serna attempted to clear the province’s shorelines of illegal structures. But that eventually failed because of the resistance put up by resort owners, some of whom have appropriated for themselves the province’s beaches.

What this will all amount to is whether the lessons of Yolanda would be enough to prod informal settlers and owners of establishments to voluntarily vacate the “no build” zones or the profit motive will prevail, which means that they would put up intense resistance.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 03, 2013.


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