GOV. Gwendolyn Garcia will not be lifting soon her closure order of Kawasan Falls in Badian town, southern Cebu.
As the demolition of “illegal” structures within a 20-meter easement of the river banks continues by Capitol workers, Garcia vowed not to allow any more overnight lodging in the nature spot.
“If we allow the rooms for rent right at the edge of falls, what about the sanitation? Where is the wastewater flowing to? I even fear that it is already causing contamination of the water,” Garcia told reporters yesterday.
“There are even reports from someone who went there to actually view the falls that they are asked to pay P500 for the entrance to the cemented part of the waterway in Kawasan. And they sell Coke for P500. That’s the most expensive Coke I’ve heard of ,” she added.
Garcia said she met earlier with owners of business establishments there and gave them the choice to voluntarily remove their structures or face demolition and a lawsuit. She said the Capitol is looking for a relocation site for them.
“I gave them two weeks to make the choice,” she said.
Garcia said the Cebu provincial government crafted an eco-tourism plan for Kawasan in 2009 but the Badian municipal officials failed to implement it.
“I remember an eco-tourism master plan was made years ago and the structures were not there. It wasn’t taken care of properly. That’s why the river was cemented,” Garcia said.
She reiterated that the structures violated the Water Code of the Philippines or Presidential Decree No. 1067.
Even after meeting the resort owners, Garcia said she is determined to file cases a gainst violators. She said that Wilhelmino Saldua’s no-show in the meeting was a sign of bad faith.
“All the other structure owners from levels 1, 2 and 3 were present except him (Saldua). I believe they indicated their willingness to cooperate, I hope so,” she said.
Saldua, who owns the Cottage and Picnic Sheds Project, earlier asked the court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the demolition of his structures.
The governor went to Kawasan Falls last month and ordered the structures to be destroyed. A day after, she issued an executive order temporarily closing the falls to tourists.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 7 formed a technical working group to study the land titles of settlers and potential violations of environment laws. ./Correspondent Peter L. Romanillo