WILL THE KAWASAN LODGES STAY?

Posted on May 22, 2012

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Kiosks, metal rails and picnic tables near the Kawasan Falls have been torn down and removed.
But more than a month after Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia began the demolition of “illegal” structures near the tourist spot, two-story buildings used as overnight lodging houses beside the Matutinao River still stand.
The buildings are operated by local residents who form the Kawasan Nature Park Multi-Purpose Cooperative and resort owner Wilhelmino “Willy” Saldua.
Acting Cebu Provincial Engineer Adolfo Quiroga told CEBU DAILY NEWS the Capitol is giving owners time to voluntarily vacate and demolish the buildings on their own.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas started yesterday its own ground survey to check whether there is a violation of the easement zone under the Water Code of the Philippines or Presidential Decree No. 1067.
This refers to the portion near a waterway that is supposed to be reserved for public use and remain free of obstruction – 20 meters in agricultural areas, three meters for urban areas and 40 meters for forest areas.
In her April 17 executive order temporarily closing the Kawasan Falls to tourists, pending clearing operations, Governor Garcia said “heartless individuals” have intruded in a 20-meter easement by building commercial establishments, thereby “spoiling” the nature spot and causing great damage to the environment and the scenic waterfalls.
Results of the DENR survey, with representatives of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) and Cebu provincial government, will guide the Capitol’s decision, said Quiroga.
The survey will also verify a 2.1-hectare lot claimed by resort owner Wilhelmino Saldua.
When the governor met with owners of Kawasan Falls resort and picnic structures last month, Saldua dared the governor to show a court order first before before destroying the structures.
The next day, she issued Executive Order No. 08 series of 2012.
Last week, Garcia announced that she would no longer allow “overnight accommodations” in the Kawasan Falls, which makes the larger lodging houses the next target of demolition.
The nature spot in Badian town, south Cebu, is promoted in tourist brochures and by travel agencies to foreign tourists, even as it draws heavy traffic from local residents looking for a cool getaway.
Kawasan features three levels of waterfalls with separate pools.
Another meeting with Kawasan resort owners is scheduled on June 13 where the fate of the structures will be decided.
Smaller cottages and kiosks near the river were torn down last month after Governor Garcia visited on April 16 and swung a hammer at the concrete foundation of one gazebo.
Garcia earlier ordered settlers and business owners in the area to voluntarily leave before April 15.
After failing to vacate the river right in front of the first cascade, several structures were knocked down a day after the “deadline.”
“Lost” Livelihood
When Cebu Daily News visited yesterday, some Badian residents who rely on Kawasan Falls for their livelihood said they were going through hard times since its closure.
Saturnino “Borloloy” Ampoon, owner of a souvenir shop a few minutes walk from the falls, said he used to earn P500 to P1,000 daily from tourists.
The amount, he said, was enough to support his family of 11 children.
Ampoon makes creative carvings out of coconut fruit sold at P150 per piece. He also repairs slippers and shoes on the side.
“Daghan magpatahi kay maglakaw ra biya gikan sa tulay unya duna gyuy mangaputol nga tsinelas,” said Ampoon. (I get to fix a lot of slippers and shoes because tourists who walk here usually tear their footwear.)
Today, he said, he barely earns P100 a day as a habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) driver.
“Naguol lagi mi kay hapit na raba ting-klase. (We’re worried because it’s almost the start of school for the children),” said Ampoon, whose wife was out seeing to the enrollment of their kids in high school.
Ampoon said that while he understood the government’s decision to temporarily close the Kawasan Falls, he was depressed because as the breadwinner, his family relies on him.
Local tour guide Edison Bedico expressed the same sense of loss over his source of livelihood.
“Asa na man mi’g panginabuhian ani nga sirado na man ang falls?” Bedico sighed. (Where will we earn a living now that the waterfalls is closed?)
Badian Mayor Robburt Librando said his office is trying to help out-of-work local tour guides by hiring them during the demolition of the “illegal” structures
Librando acknowledged the contribution of the local guides in ensuring the security of visitors to Kawasan Falls.
He said there are plans by the municipality and Departmetn of Touristm to offer training on alternative sources of livelihood.
The mayor said the demolition was necessary to restore the natural beauty of Kawasan Falls. / Jessa Chrisna Marie J. Agua, Correspondent

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