Demolition of Beach Resorts in Panglao Island, Bohol Philippines

By Romy Teruel
Sunday Post

Panglao Mayor  Benedicto Alcala's political will has made him man of the hour. Lack of allies in the Sangguniang Bayan is a major setback but this did not deter Mayor Alcala from enforcing the 20-meter salvage zone initially at the Alona beach area of Panglao.  He ordered the demolition of structures that were constructed within prohibited zone, something his predecessors did not even think of.  
Those affected hated him but he has shown that he is made of sterner stuff and he has gained the admiration of those who not only want the law enforced but also those who want to preserve and continue to enjoy the best tourism asset of Panglao.  

The 20 meters salvage zone in beaches is mandated by the Water Code of the Philippines and reinforced by Executive Order No. 13 of Gov. Erico B. Aumentado, and the Sangguniang Bayan of Panglao itself when it adopted into an ordinance the guidelines set by the Panglao Island Tourism Development Inter-agency Task Force.  

Those affected will condemn Mayor Alcala but that is because they have not gone beyond their short-term business profits in mind. They want immediate return of their investment and are not looking forward to the sustainability of their businesses. 

By doing the unexpected, Mayor Alcala will go down in the history of Panglao as the executive who gambled his political career for good governance – i.e. if good governance is not good politics.  In Philippine politics, very few politicians will displease the businessmen who are the usual source of their campaign kitty.  But Mayor Alcala chose to be a good mayor than be a good politician.  The 2010 elections will tell whether he made a good political decision or not. 

But whether he makes good in 2010 or not, Mayor Alcala has already earned his niche as a leader with political will.  Those who feel aggrieved by the decision of the Mayor can always go to court as some of them did and succeeded in securing a temporary restraining order (TRO).  But they know that if they violated the law, they are not above it and will eventually pay for their actions.  For the good of Panglao and for the good of their businesses, it will be to their benefit to see the reason for complying with the provisions of the law. 

The predecessors of Mayor Alcala were already aware of this but they chose to close their eyes.  Some not only closed their eyes but went further to violate the law themselves.  Sooner or later the long arms of the law will catch up with them, that is if Mayor Alcala's demolition team will not get to them ahead of time. 

Given the global warming phenomenon, the 20 meters salvage zone is no longer enough.  World class developers who subscribe to environmentally sound development planning like Palafox and Associates even say that salvage zone should be at least 50 meters.  We won't advocate that of course for that will deprive many small landowners from developing their landholdings. 

It is time that everybody, especially the public administrators and the investors and developers, identify themselves with the future and not just their present. The future generation has as much right to enjoy and profit from the beauty of Panglao as today's generation are enjoying them.  Let them be not deprived of that through wanton violation of our environmental laws. 

Let there be no let up in the vigilance and enforcement of the law.  Let everyone have his chance to be man of the hour.