Saturday, November 3, 2012

Groups propose composite 
team for island protection 
Rey Anthony H. Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol November 2, 2012 (PIA) –With elections a shy six months away and a huge task that has the potential to make incumbent and re-electionist Panglao Mayor Benedicto Alcala unpopular, two environmental task groups offered a brilliant solution to advance efforts at protecting and conserving the Bohol Marine Triangle (BMT). 

Instead of Mayor Alcala singularly heading an uphill battle in the coastal restoration of Balicasag and enforcing laws to protect its rare marine environment, the groups decide to craft a composite team instead of leaving the mayor spearheading a quixotic war for the marine environmental here. 

Task Force Dolphin (TFDolphin) and Coastal Restoration for Amazing Balicasag (CRAB), both created by virtue of a two separate executive orders met with Governor Edgar Chatto presiding them, to iron out a binding task that would embroil CRAB chairman Alcala into controversial environment enforcement, months into an election. 

Both have been tasked to look into creating solutions for the problems in Balicasag, including the population explosion that impacts on the environment, illegal construction, solid waste management, abuse in its marine habitats and unregulated activities in the island. 

Earlier, Alcala has openly asked the group to accept his resignation, reasoning out that his situation, which is now at odds with his Sangguniang Bayan makes the full operation of the CRAB project doubly hard. 

CRAB, in a workshop along with stakeholders of Panglao, Dauis and Baclayon (PaDaYon) identified activities which needs funds form the collected Environmental User’s Fee (EUF). 

The EUF is a legislated measure to exact fees for environmental usage from divers and snorkelers, but oppositors and political detractors secured a court order to temporarily stop the collection until recently. 

The court has recently restored the EUF for the town, but even then, mayor Alcala said the fund is held in trust and would only be useable upon a legislative concurrence by the SB. 

Moreover, he said being the chairman of the CRAB puts him in a rather jeopardizing situation of enforcing environmental laws, at a rather uncompromising time months before an election. 

The moment I implement the law, my political opponents would have a grand day and I would surely be on a losing end, Alcala said, reiterating his intention to resign as CRAB chairman. 

For Governor Chatto however, Alcala sitting as CRAB Chairman is still important in as much as Panglao executive is in the perfect position to locally enforce laws. 

Not wanting to leave the issue unsolved and putting up a win-win solution to the issue, the two groups paddled towards the possibility of creating a composite team whose main task is enforcement of environment and applicable laws for the conservation of Balicasag, its surrounding waters and the marine creatures in the island. 

The composite team, according to Nunila Pinat of PaDayon Bohol would be comprised of the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy, Philippine Army’s Special Forces, Maritime Police, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Fish Wardens and Local Government Units. 

With a composite team, even the problem of the SB can be overcome as it is not anymore the mayor who will lobby but a composite team which could extend its advocacy through the use of the media as a pressure group to force private investors to abide by the laws, Chatto hinted. 

On the team, Chatto said “we should be seen as a group not making their lives difficult but one that helps them sustain the very island they own. (30/cc)

Does Balicasag building ban 
include new gov’t facilities? 
Rey Anthony Chiu 

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol November 2, 2012 (PIA)— Authorities have implemented a ban on new buildings within the 25 hectare island of Balicasag, but would the moratorium on new buildings include social service infrastructure in a community birthing center? 

Panglao Mayor wants to know this as a local government unit initiated birthing center to serve the needs of the community in Balicasag, some 30 minutes away from mainland Panglao, has been ordered stopped due to the affectivity of the ban. 

Philippine Navy, upon which the island has been entrusted as a naval reserve and a lighthouse, has reportedly stopped the contractors from building the new facility, as it was considered illegal. 

American Governor General James Smith in 1907 declared Balicasag Island as a reserve for lighting purposes. As such, only the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy were allowed access to the island for security and lighthouse operations. 

By the time of President Marcos however, a decree placed the island under the Philippine Tourism Authority, which also caused the government to establish the Balicasag Island Dive Resort, following the discovery of the island’s unique underwater sceneries. 

This development did not just beckon the tourists to the island, it also lured locals to the island’s marine bounty, which ahs been ideal grounds for fishing. 

Now saddled with an exploding population problem, which also caused concerns on solid waste management, seepage of wastewater to the reefs, unauthorized use of sand to construct houses and clear unregulated tourism practices has pushed authorities to step in and salvage what can be saved from the island paradise. 

To curb on population explosion, authorities have imposed a zero new buildings policy in the island.. 

This, when taken strictly, can be quite a poser, according to members of the Coastal Restoration of Amazing Balicasag (CRAB) during a meeting last week. 

Panglao Mayor Benedicto Alcala admitted he did not also issue a building permit, as it was nevea a practice for his town to issue such documents for government projects. 

At a meetings las week, CRAB members also asked if the LGU in Panglao is technically authorized to issue permits when the island is under PTA control. 

By operation of law, when the island was declared naval reserve, the people who settled in the island were technically illegal settlers. 

But according to Governor Edgar Chatto, social services must not be denied of people. 

This then means that, like Balicasag school facility, the structures were built for a purpose. When the purpose is for social service delivery, then it must not be stopped, CRAB members added. (30/gg)

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