THE proposed demolition of fish nets and fish pens in Sitio Tubigan, Barangay Banilad in Mandaue City, Cebu was recommended by former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary and now Cebu City environment consultant Roy Cimatu.
Residents of a village located near the fish pens bared this, as they called for solutions to solve the perennial flooding problem in the area that has already affected the safety of their families.
The Mandaue City Council invited on Monday, November 13, 2023, Ed Latonio, chairman of the Drainage and Crisis Committee of the Sto. Niño Village Homeowners Association Inc. (SNVHAI), and his co-chairman, Sylvan Monzon, to its regular session to hear their side on the impending demolition of the fish pens.
Latonio said they met with Cimatu for a five-hour discussion on September 27, 2023, following the neck-deep flooding that the residents experienced after a downpour on September 13.
He said Cimatu suggested clearing out the fish pens and desilting the area, which serves as a catch basin for the rainwater, to decrease flooding incidents.
He added that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Central Visayas has also been conducting a study in the area to address the problem.
"So bali ig uwan, kun empty sya (fish pens), ig sulod sa tubig is dako pa kaayo syag ma-accommodate unlike now nga naa naman guy tubig daan. How can the fish pens accommodate og tubig nga daghan nga naa na man syay tubig daan? That's his (Cimatu) recommendation," said Latonio.
(So, whenever it rains, and it is empty, it can accommodate much water, unlike now when there is already water. How can the fish pens accommodate more water when they already have water? That's Cimatu’s recommendation.)
Latonio said that flooding has been a longtime problem in their village, where they experience at least knee-deep water during rains, rendering their roads impassable unless the water is suctioned.
He said the incident last September 13 served as the last straw for them to ask for help.
Monzon said the incident caused trauma, particularly to his family, as they never expected to experience such large volume of flood water at night.
The subdivision is located in Banilad, Cebu City, and Banilad, Mandaue City. But the majority of its land area is on the Mandaue side, to which they said the flooding also occurs.
Latonio said the September 13 flooding had affected half of the 450 houses in the village, adding they would not wait for bigger disasters to happen before making a move.
The village homeowners also questioned whether the fish pen owners were allowed to install their fish pens in the wetland, emphasizing they do not have business permits to operate such.
"We understand that it is their livelihood and we feel sorry for them. But in our village, it is between life and death because flooding happens at night. That's also very dangerous on their side that they live and do business there. Imagine there will be water there, and then if the rain is strong and floods, it will turn out also as a disaster for them," Latonio added.
Lawyer John Eddu Ibañez, head of Mandaue City Legal Office and head of the Task Force "Atong Problema, Atong Solusyon" (Apas,) said on October 18 that they plan to demolish the fish pens, which are situated in wetlands as these hinder their desilting and dredging operations and block the water flow, resulting in floods, especially along the A.S. Fortuna Street.
A three-day notice had already been served by Mandaue's Housing and Urban Development Office (Hudo) to the fish pen owners, who were also told that they will get P28,000 cash assistance. The demolition, however, was halted by the City Council.
Mandaue City Council chair, Vice Mayor Glenn Bercede, mandated all departments involved in the clearing initiative, particularly Hudo an Task Force Apas, including the fish pen owners and the DENR, to air their side on the matter.
Bercede said they need to hear the stakeholders’ side first before continuing with the demolition.
Oliver Cabahug, president of Tubigan Banilad Homeowners Association (TBHA), and member Rachel Bregente, who represented the fish pen owners, appealed to the City Council to help them prevent the demolition, stressing that it has been their sole source of income for almost 30 years now.
They said demolishing the fish pens could be the last resort, as they could apply other flood mitigations to resolve the flooding problem in the area.
Bregente said that fish nets were placed elevated from the silt and did not block the supposed catch basin as claimed by the City Government.
Ibañez and Hudo head lawyer Johnbee Biton were unable to attend last week's session, and the Council has not released any decision yet on whether another meeting will be held to discuss the matter. (HIC)