Using jackhammers and welding tools, Capitol employees yesterday continued the demolition of concrete kiosks, cottages, picnic areas and other “illegal structures” in Kawasan Falls in Badian town, south Cebu, a popular tourist site that was ordered closed for a week by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.
A day after she shut it down, Garcia issued Executive Order No. 08 directing its “temporary closure to tourists.”
The April 17 order said “the influx of tourists… has spawned a breed of unscrupulous individuals out to make business in the area even at the expense of the environment and the Kawasan Falls” by building commercial establishments that are “spoiling” its natural beauty.
Some travel and tour operators expressed their support.
“Actually this is long overdue,” said Alice Queblatin,Tourism Congress Visayas vice president for travel and tour sector, in a text message to Cebu Daily News.
“The illegal structures should not be a part of the scenery. It has also caused littering, poor solid waste management, obstruction to pathways that pose danger to trekkers and too much commercialism to an otherwise peaceful natural site. Give back Kawasan (Falls) its original appeal,” said Queblatin.
Cebu Association of Tour Operators president Cecile Sa-a agreed.
“Where do you suppose the waste from the restaurants near the falls go? It’s really dirty. One week will not hurt (tour operators) that much and I think this is really a good move to restore the falls. We want to promote eco-tourism in these areas but with the illegal structures, the tour packages are not possible,” said Sa-a.
Sa-a said she once had a tour group who wanted to visit Kawasan Falls but they were given another option after she inspected the place and was disappointed.
EO No. 08 cited as legal basis the Local Government Code, which empowers the province to provide ways and means to promote the “general welfare” of its people.
It also cited a required 20-meter easement in waterways for public use under the Water Code of the Philippines or Presidential Decree No. 1067.
Garcia said that she recommended to the Badian municipal council to pass an ordinance declaring Kawasan Falls a municipal park and to pass a resolution requesting Rep. Pablo John Garcia of Cebu’s 2nd district to sponsor a bill in congress declaring the waterfalls a protected area.
“This was the suggestion by Director Al Orolfo, of the Protected Area and Wildlife and Coastal Management of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas,” Garcia said.
PEO acting chief Adolfo Quiroga said he promised Governor Garcia to “restore” the area in one week.
At least 20 PEO personnel are handling the demolition of structures. /Carmel Loise Matus and Aileen Garcia-Yap