Samal resort owners insistent not to pay LGU penalty on “illegal” structures over water

may 8, 2014

Several beach resort owners in Samal Island are insistent of not paying the “oppressive” penalty imposed by the City Government even as they have secured already an injunction in court to stop the 2009 ordinance revived to charge penalty on illegal structures over water.

Araceli Ayuste, adviser of the Samal City Resort Association, Inc. (SCRAI), said that resort owners find the old City Ordinance 2009-150 as “very oppressive and (its penalty) too high to comply”.

“It’s not even applicable us as majority of the beach resort owners have been operating in the island since the 1970s. The Paradise Island resort started operating in 1972. The law should not be retroactive to us,” she said in an interview.

Ayuste is the owner of the Punta del Sol Beach Resort and is the president of both the Davao del Norte Tourism Council and Mindanao Tourism Council.

There are more than 70 beach resorts around the island, 36 of which are members of SCRAI. Sixteen members of SCRAI did not pay a single centavo for the imposed penalty.

According to Ayuste, the old ordinance was suddenly revived when they were about to renew their business permits early this year.

They were told they could not renew their business permits without paying the penalty.

Beach resort owners then have been hounded by a charge that they have been fencing off and putting up illegal over-water structures such as fences, jetties and breakwaters thus closing open access of the public to shorelines in the island.

Armando Tejano Jr., leader of Nagkahiusang Mananagat sa Babak District, said that developers and moneyed people have left nothing to Samal people of a free public beach to swim on and open shorelines as jump off and fish landing areas of small fisherfolks.

He said that city government through the years has been “forcibly relocating” thousands of families in coastal communities around the island to the mountains using the Urban Development Housing Act.

“When the shorelines are cleared of coastal communities, they then fenced the shorelines, and developers cornered these including the mangrove areas, and later ang pamumulot ng coral rocks bawal na,” he said.

Island Garden City of Samal Mayor Aniano Antalan was sought for interview to get the city government’s side but he begged off.

In earlier interview, now resigned city administrator Cleto Gales said that “it is very clear that in the foreshore lease agreements with resort owners they have to provide public access, they can’t say they are not aware.”

He said that the city government offered three options to pave the way for open access of the shorelines and to avoid the over-water structures from being demolished by the city crew.

The options he cited were voluntary demolition of structures, paying of penalty for the structures at P250 per cubic meter of the over-water structures introduced, and upgrading of investment from P30 million to P70 million, all of which were rejected by resort owners.

Ayuste said that last year she paid P80,000 for her renewal of the business permit, but the penalty leveled when she tried to renew her permit was P43,000 “which is not clear if it is yearly or one-time payment.”

Before the court injunction, unresisting beach resorts had paid of the required 10 percent downpayment for the penalty, resulting to a collection of more than P1 million going to the city coffers.

Last March 26 the Regional Trial Court Panabo City Judge Dax Gonzaga Xenos issued a prohibition mandamus injunction in favor to petitioning Samal City Resort Association.

“The court ordered for a status quo, which means they will not collect, we will not also pay,” she said.

City Vice Mayor Al David Uy, on the other hand, admitted that the 2009 ordinance “is a defective legislation, made without thorough consultation.”

He said the City Council is now on the process of revising the ordinance, stressing for the need of a “win-win solution as beach resorts are windows of the island.”

Gales, city administrator already for 16 years, resigned effective May 1 following reported pressure from Davao del Norte District 2 Congressman Anton Lagdameo over his alleged inaction in several projects and matters asked by the congressman for fast-tracking and resolution, among which was the brickbat over the penalty issue.

The congressman had reportedly gone into scolding and got mad at Gales who was no-show in the supposed meeting with him and the mayor only at City Hall, morning of last April 1.

Who met the congressman were department heads, some city councilors and the mayor without Gales, who could not even be contacted by phone, turning the good mood of the congressman to bad, City Hall insiders said. (Rural Urban News/Cha Monforte)

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