Return the seas to their real owners

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Monday, February 24, 2014


THE President is expected to be in Cebu today. Then he will return to his home in Manila. That’s all there is to it.

He is our president but he is also our guest. So I am willing to endure the horrible traffic situation around the Capitol area when I report to work this morning. That’s Cebuano hospitality.

I will not demand of the President to give any special favors to Cebu even if he won here by a wide margin in 2010. His predecessor did that – pamper us – and look what it brought us. I expect him to treat us as he would other Filipinos.

Moreover, the Cebuanos are self-sufficient. We can stand on our own. We have proven that so many times. We are an island in the Pacific, remember? We will demand for what is justly and rightfully ours. We will not be mendicants begging for, what do they call it, largesse?

So, hello, Mr. President. And goodbye. It was nice having you around, bad traffic and all notwithstanding. We thank you for showing up but honestly, it’s really no big deal.

***

I have always known it to be Shell Island. I never thought that the area that used to house the oil company’s huge depot was also called Pilipog and that is actually a part of the town of Cordova and not of Lapu-Lapu City.

The property is currently being occupied by a private company called the Cebu Coliseum Complex Incorporated by virtue of a lease, according to the company’s lawyer. How the CCCI was able to obtain a tax declaration on Pilipog is still unclear. Could it have
been because of its lease?

Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy, who is also a lawyer, now wants that the tax declaration canceled for being patently illegal. Sitoy says that the island has not been classified as “alienable and disposable” and thus continues to be part of the public domain. The Provincial Board has thrown its support behind the Cordova mayor’s position.

It is good that Cordova and the Capitol are taking an interest in a public land with a view to prevent private appropriation of the same. I hope it will signal an honest-to-goodness attempt to inventory all public lands in the Mactan island area and guarantee unlimited public access to the same.

Try going to the islets that sit across Mactan island and you will be lucky if you find one where you can swim without being charged an admission fee. It used to be only the town of Cordova that charged these fees. Now, Lapu-Lapu City is into the business, too. And with private developers setting up buoys to discourage approach to the islets that they “own,” island-hopping is really more fun in Mactan.

Have these islets been declared alienable and disposable? Have the seas around them been titled, too? What is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources doing about it?

The amount is not pittance, mind you. It varies from P100 to P150. A visitor is told that it is a permit fee to swim in a fish sanctuary. Meaning, you are required to pay for the privilege of swimming with the fish.

The practice is immoral and illegal. It deprives those who do not have at least P100 from swimming in the sea. How could the DENR have allowed this to happen? How could the local governments of Cordova and Lapu-Lapu be so callous as to miss public interest for the peso sign?

The Capitol has asked that Pilipog or Shell Island be returned to its rightful owner, the Republic of the Philippines. I hope that it will be just as interested to make sure that the seas be returned to their real owners – the people.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 25, 2014.

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