Dev’t in protected areas ‘must be regulated’

Dev’t in protected areas ‘must be regulated’

ANY construction within protected areas in Cebu City must first secure the necessary permits from the City.

This was the recommendation of Joseph Michael Espina, head of the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO), after he discovered that the Protected Areas Management Board (Pamb) allowed developers to put up resorts and other structures at the Cebu Central Protected Landscape (CCPL) without the City’s knowledge.

“What happens there is that the building is already finished, but we just received the application of occupancy permits (only after the construction),” he said during CPDO’s Panglantaw teleradyo program over RMN Sugboanon Channel on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. “It is only when the contractors are applying for occupancy permits that we discover that they have been constructing without the necessary permits from the City.”

According to Cebu City’s Public Information Office, Espina said contractors must obtain locational clearances from the CPDO and building permits from the Office of the Building Official before they can start building.

He said permits from the Pamb are not enough even though the latter is authorized to issue permits for activities and developments within a protected area under Republic Act (RA) 9486, or the Central Cebu Protected Landscape Act of 2007.

Section 6, paragraph (e) of the law, which was authored by then first district representative Eduardo Gullas, states that the Pamb has “sole jurisdiction, power and authority” to “establish criteria and set fees for the issuance of permits for activities regulated by this Act or the management plan.”

Section 9 (b) also states that the Pamb’s executive committee is authorized to “act on proposals or projects recommended by the concerned committees.”

Espina said the Pamb uses the funds it collects from permits to manage the CCPL.

“But the problem is the proponents do not go through the City after they get the permits from the Pamb,” he said, adding that “the purpose of the RA 9486 is to safeguard areas needing protection from human intervention. It is ironical that things have become otherwise.”

Espina also questioned the composition of the Pamb.

He said majority are representatives of barangays situated within the CCPL, while the others are representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources 7, mayors of local government units that have a stake at the CCPL and members of nongovernment organizations and civil society groups.

“In my opinion, there is no check and balance in the regulation of developments at the CCPL as the users are also the ones regulating themselves,” he said.

The CCPL is spread out in 55 barangays in the cities of Cebu, Talisay, Toledo and Danao and in the towns of Balamban, Minglanilla, Consolaion, Liloan and Compostela.

Espina lamented that majority of the Pamb members are behind the developments within the CCPL, but admitted that the problem is not confined to Cebu as the situation is similar in other protected areas in the country.

To address the matter, Espina said the CPDO will seek the amendment of the City’s zoning ordinance to require developers to secure permits before construction.

He said they are also recommending that Pamb should not issue a permit to applicants unless they have already secured permits from the City.

The CPDO head said the City cannot allow unchecked development at the CCPL since it serves as a major source of food and water for Cebuanos.

He pointed out that 27 of the city’s 30 mountain barangays produce vegetables within the CCPL, which is also home to several watershed areas, including the Mananga Watershed.

Anne Marie Cuizon, CPDO assistant head, stressed the importance of the CCPL to biodiversity.

Not only does it help maintain ecological balance by providing fresh air and preventing soil erosion, she said, it is also home to 400 species of flora and fauna.

She said the unregulated development at the CCPL will only threaten its ecosystem. / PJB

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