FOUR floating cottages anchored off the coast of Barangay Poblacion in Talisay City, Cebu for a month now are not open to the public.

Not yet, anyway.

These are owned by George Aznar, who operates Aznar Beach Resort in the barangay.

The sighting of the cottages comes amid the crackdown on floating cottages by the Municipality of Cordova and Lapu-Lapu City this month.

Last Aug. 9, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order (EO) 19 stopping the further construction of illegal structures like floating and fixed cottages within the foreshore area, mangrove zone, public beach zone, and municipal fishing zones of the Municipality of Cordova, saying they violated national and local laws on easement zones and caused pollution as they had no proper waste management facilities.

Garcia later ordered the operators of Cordova’s floating and fixed cottages to temporarily stop their operations by Aug. 29, to facilitate the rehabilitation of Cordova’s polluted coast.

Aznar said they use the floating cottages to entertain family and guests.

Sometimes they allow friends to use the cottages for free, he told SunStar.

The cottages are 30 seconds from the shore by motorbanca. Each one has a bathroom with a septic tank.

Those who need to answer the call of nature don’t have to go ashore to do their business, Aznar said.

“But if they want, we have a motorbanca on standby to take them to dry land to use the bathroom,” he said in Cebuano.

He said they are still securing the necessary permits so they can open the floating cottages to the public.

“We want everything to be aboveboard,” he said in Cebuano.

Pay the fees

Aznar said they already met with barangay officials and showed them a video of how the floating cottages look inside.

He said they will also allow the cottages to be inspected.

“Once our floating cottages are operational, we will pay the necessary fees to the barangay, including fees for garbage collection and the environmental fee,” he said in Cebuano.

Aznar said their aim is to promote and improve the city’s tourism as well as help residents with their livelihood.

Aznar purchased one of the floating cottages in Cordova after their operation was temporarily suspended to facilitate the rehabilitation of the town’s coast and waters. The other three were built in Talisay, he said.

Vice Mayor Aznar

Talisay Vice Mayor Richard Francis Aznar, in an interview, said the City Government needs to regulate their operation following the controversy surrounding floating cottages in Cordova.

The vice mayor is the nephew of George Aznar, owner of the floating cottages.

“The tourism office and the licensing office are already looking into the matter so we can avoid what happened in Cordova from happening here in Talisay,” the vice mayor said in Cebuano.

The unregulated establishment of floating and fixed cottages on and along Cordova’s coast was blamed for the high fecal coliform level (FCL) in the water.

The latest water quality check conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 revealed that the FCL had reached 2,400 most probable number (mpn) per 100 milliliters.

The standard FCL for coastal water to be considered safe for swimming and other similar recreational activities is 100 mpn per 100 milliliters, according to the DENR.

While Talisay City still doesn’t have an ordinance regarding floating cottages, the vice mayor advised future operators to go through the usual channels to secure the necessary permits before the mayor will allow them to operate.

He urged barangays to regularly inspect floating cottages once these are operational.

Lapu-Lapu study

In Lapu-Lapu City, a local agriculture and fisheries official said putting up floating cottages for tourism and economic opportunities requires a study first to avoid environmental consequences.

Personnel from the City Agriculture and Fisheries Office (CAFO) had spotted five illegal floating cottages off the shores of Barangays Marigondon and Punta Engaño during their inspection last week.

CAFO head Alex Baring told SunStar Cebu Tuesday that the floating cottages came from Cordova but were transferred to the city due to Garcia’s order for the cottages to stop operating.

Baring said operating a floating cottage for tourism should be well regulated to prevent harm to the environment. This would require further studies and approval from the City Council.

“Estudyohan na og maayo kung unsa gyud ang angay buhaton nga dili makadaot sa atoang environment,” said Baring.

He further said they had already met with the owners of the floating cottages and told them to remove their structures from the waters of the city immediately.

According to Baring, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan had already said floating cottages should not be allowed to operate in the city due to their detrimental effects on the environment.

“Dili gyud i-allow diri. In fact, ang gi ingon ni mayor is to prevent them from sailing and anchor diri. Dili mo sugot si mayor nga ibutang diri,” said Baring.

(They will not be allowed here. In fact, what the mayor said is to prevent them from sailing and dropping anchor here.)

Last Aug. 27, Mayor Chan had said the anchors of floating cottages could also damage corals.

Baring said the operators should voluntarily remove their floating structures before operatives from the City take over and seize the cottages.

“Number one, wala silay permit. Unya ni sulod sila diretso sa Lapu-Lapu City, unya wala gani bisag kinsa nga ilang gi pananghiran. Known na sila daan nga sila maoy cause sa problema sa Cordova,” he added.

(Number one, they have no permit. They just entered Lapu-Lapu City without seeking anyone’s permission. They are already known to have caused the problems in Cordova.)