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CEBU, Philippines – Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has banned the reconstruction of homes and buildings on waterway easement zones.
Garcia signed Executive Order No. 2 Series of 2022 on Friday, January 14, as the provincial government continued rehabilitation work in 34 towns and cities affected when Typhoon Odette hit the province on December 16, 2021.
The EO cites the Water Code of the Philippines (Presidential Decree 1067) in prohibiting the repair, construction, and/or the reconstruction of houses, buildings, edifices, and other illegal structures within the setbacks, easements, or buffer zones.”
Garcia’s EO also cited Cebu Province’s own Water Code (Provincial Ordinance No. 2021-02) that mandates criminal complaints against violators.
Easement zones are the minimum distance from bodies of water that should remain clear of private structures.
For urban areas, the easement zone is three meters. Easement for agricultural areas is 20 meters and 40 meters in forest areas.
The province began clearing operations on easement zones in 2019, when the provincial board passed a resolution supporting moves by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of the Interior and Local Government on “no-build zones”.
The province did not give an estimate of how many residential or commercial structures the EO would affect.
Hotels Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) president Alfred Reyes said resort operators were already doing operations even before the pandemic.
“I think that was before the pandemic. The governor herself really went around inspecting the structures. And I know some of the owners that have structures on the easements, some of them have already demolished it,” he told Rappler.
When asked about the estimated number of resorts in the province that might be affected by the EO, Reyes said most of the establishments are already compliant with the law on easement zones. Stressing that HRRAC is an association that follows the law, Reyes said those who don’t will have to face the risk of local government sanctions.
The province’s southern towns suffered most from Odette’s fury. The province said these areas reported an average of 90% partial and total damage to households.
The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said 34 of 50 local government units, covering 234,217 families, were affected by Odette.
The province’s tourism office also said the typhoon damaged 260 tourism establishments.
The provincial government initiated a rehabilitation program before the end of 2021, providing residents with coupons they can redeem in partner hardware stores for supplies.
Sugbo News of the Cebu public information office reported on January 12 that over 40 hardware stores had signed a memorandum of agreement with the provincial government for the program.
The provincial government will also link operators of tourism establishments to government banks for loans with minimal interest. – Rappler.com