No-build zones in Leyte

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Thursday, December 12, 2013


THE Province of Leyte is still in a quandary as to how to implement the recommendation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to designate no-build zones in the coastal areas. The recommendation was made in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda.

The coastal towns of Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa and Dulag in Leyte were among the hardest hit by the super typhoon. From the account of Leyte Gov. Dominic Petilla, who I had the chance to talk with a week ago, Tanauan had the most number of casualties.

Last week was my first to go back to Leyte after Yolanda hit the province on Nov. 8. I have not seen a devastation greater than the one that struck the province in all the typhoons I experienced before. I really felt the suffering of the victims.

In Tacloban City, which we visited from the airport, the streets have already been cleared of debris but most businesses are still not open. The Red Cross has utilized Leyte Park Hotel as its headquarters.

City government cleaners could not just quickly clear the rubbles on the roadside because the police and rescuers are still searching for missing persons who may have been entangled in the debris.

The latest death toll brought about by super typhoon Yolanda, as reported by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, is 5,924, which is way beyond the estimate of Malacañang.

Support and aid from the different sectors in the country and from foreign relief organizations are all over the affected areas – in Tacloban City and the towns of Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa, Dulag, and MacArthur.

I visited Governor Petilla and Vice Gov. Carlo Loreto (I was with Chandran R. Rama, president of Strongbuilt Mining Development Corp. or SBMDC), to inform them that JFE-Shoji, a Japanese firm and business partner of SBMDC that is engaged in magnetite sand
mining in MacArthur, will donate P2 million to the province.

Rama informed the governor that his company already donated 5,000 GI sheets and 600 bags of cement to the towns of MacArthur, Mayurga and Dulag. Relief goods amounting to P4 million were also given to the victims in the affected barangays.

In my talk with Governor Petilla at his temporary office in their family building in Palo, Leyte, he told me that they could not agree yet on the setback distance from the shoreline that will be declared a no-build zone.

The DENR recommendation is 30 to 40 meters from the shoreline. There are suggestions of a 50 meters and even a one kilometer setback. The provincial government’s dilemma is that the 30 to 40 meters setback would settle on the swamp.

To relocate the families living in the coastal zones of the affected towns of Leyte would also cost the province billions of pesos for the acquisition of the land and to provide the construction materials.

Currently, the Leyte provincial government is only providing those residing near the beaches with tarpaulins for their temporary shelter since they are living on the no-build zone.

Governor Petilla said families whose damaged houses were built far away from the beach areas were given GI sheets of from 10 to 15 to 20 pieces depending on the size of the house. This was to provide them with immediate shelter.

But the town of Tudela, Cebu outgunned the rest of the local government units hit by the typhoon in putting up a relocation site on higher grounds for the families living in the coastal areas.

Meanwhile, DENR 7 is reminding city and town mayors in Cebu that it is an offense to issue a building permit for projects within the 20-meter easement zone in the foreshore areas.

(elespinoza53@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 12, 2013.

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