Silot Bay controversy

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Thursday, February 6, 2014


THE English term for the Cebuano word “silot” is punishment. In Poro town in the Camotes group of islands where people speak Porohanon, “silot’ refers to the young coconut fruit (“butong” in Cebuano).

I am not from Liloan town, so I do not know why a place there is called Silot Bay. But considering the controversy that has erupted there regarding the fencing of a portion of the bay by a private entity, the “Silot” in Silot Bay seems closer in meaning to “punishment.”

The controversy stems from the “fencing” by the family of Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) top gun Democrito Mendoza of a portion of Silot Bay. The Mendozas also have interests in Stakili Beach Garden and Resorts in Estaca, Compostela and Nalusuan Island Resort in Cordova town in Mactan island.

So the expertise of the Mendozas is not only in labor union work but also in developing resorts. That’s not a rap but is meant to inform.

I used to work in dyLA in my early years in the journalism profession, but I didn’t have a chance to get close to ALU officials who ran and still runs the radio station.

But I met there Arturo “Art” Barrit, who is speaking on behalf of the Mendozas in the Silot Bay row.

Barrit clarified that the Mendozas own only around 92 hectares of the 500-hectare bay.

The drift in that statement is that Liloan folk could not say that the fence blocked their entry to Silot Bay because it only involves roughly one fifth of the area.

Besides, the “fence” is not necessarily a blockade but was only put there to warn people against swimming inside the property where Barrit claimed people have previously drowned. Even with the fence, people can still swim and fish in the area.

Even the gathering of seashells inside the property is not prohibited but only regulated.

As for the guards, whom the Liloan folk alleged would shoot anyone who goes beyond the fence, Barrit said they merely serve as “lifeguards.”

I really don’t know the demeanor of Barrit when he made the statement and those claims. This wasn’t done tongue-in-cheek, I am sure. But the claims, like the one about the security guards, do sound amusing. Then again, I would give my good friend the benefit of the doubt.

But I am glad that Liloan Mayor Vincent “Duke” Frasco, husband of former governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s daughter, is one with Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, and possibly Gov. Hilario Davide III, too, on the issue. They seem ready to protect the interest of Liloan folk.

This reminds me of another battle that Magpale and former governor Vicente de la Serna waged against Mactan island resort owners whose development only encroached on the shoreline and who got so swell-headed they would chase away fisherfolk who would stray into their “properties.” That battle was eventually won by resort owners but they ended up no longer roughhousing fisherfolk.

The push for a review of the ownership of the Mendozas of a portion of Silot Bay is justified, but it will take time and a good dose of patience from Liloan folk. Yet the controversy seemed to have opened the eyes of the Mendozas that alienating themselves from the Liloan folk and the municipal and provincial governments won’t do them good.

I understand based on Frasco’s statement that the Mendozas are “very open and willing” to tackle the Liloan folk’s concerns. That’s an improvement from their previous stance of snubbing three notices of illegal fencing issued by the Liloan Municipal Government.

I think a dialogue is the best way to go here, but without prejudice to the legal moves that the Liloan folk and the town and provincial governments will make regarding ownership of the property.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 07, 2014.

Opinion

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