SOMEONE ELSE'S WINDOWS: Who owns the seas? by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

DAVAO CITY (November 2, 2010) – From afar, Samal Island looks alluring. Sorry, but for this disappointed visitor, it’s hardly an ideal place for relaxation and communing with Nature. The island’s natural endowments, in particular its coastal areas, have given way to the onslaught of resort operators who have shown no qualms in destroying the natural condition of its shorelines and polluting the surrounding seawater.

Visitors may not be aware of it. Yet the ongoing destruction greets them as soon as they approach Samal’s coastline which now teems with resorts that offer a wide array of attractions. Resort owners have built concrete wharves extending several meters into the sea.

Apparently, these facilities also serve as breakwaters. Nets tied to bamboo poles and weighed down to the seafloor are placed from the tip of one wharf to another to prevent waste and other unwanted materials from drifting inward, in an attempt maybe to keep tidy the cubicle-shaped swimming areas which show signs of having been reclaimed. Goodbye, corals and all.

It’s a pity that this method doesn’t seem to work. As such, every morning resort workers have to collect trash from the swimming areas only to dump it in another part of the sea! They’d do it before sunup so that the beach would look clean before the visitors arrive or wake up for an early bath.

Whoever it was who thought of building breakwaters that double as wharves lack foresight, imagination and aesthetic sense. For while the structures may prevent strong waves from rushing in, they make it difficult to rinse out the water inside the swimming areas of unwanted refuse every so often. Had the breakwaters not been there, the waves would have served as the natural cleansing agents of the shoreline. As things stand now, Samal is an island that likes to choke itself to death.

The breakwaters are also an eyesore. By erasing the coastline, they simply rob the island of its beauty. This is one island getaway where the beach is [almost] nowhere to be found. Sand has given way to concrete.

Not only that, the resorts have glaringly violated the law by expropriating what is supposed to be part of the commons – the shoreline. As part of the commons, no one is entitled to claim the shoreline hence any structures that bar people from passing through it or using it for enjoyment and other legitimate purposes should be disallowed.

Who allowed these resorts to build those breakwaters in the first place? The local government unit? The Department of Environment and Natural Resources? No finger-pointing and excuses, please. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])