Terror groups still hound Samal resort owners

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 April) – Resort owners from Samal City said terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group continue to threaten their beaches more than a decade after the group attacked one resort in the island.

This is one of the reasons they refuse to open their beaches for open access, in accordance with easement laws provided by national law.

At a recent media forum here, Talicud Island Tourism Council president Mario Reta cited security against terrorism as one of the reasons they refuse to abide by the Water Code and a local ordinance preventing the creation of structures on their beachfront properties.

Reta said the island has felt “neglected” since the cityhood of Samal.

He claimed that he was aware that Talicud had become “a drop off point” of bandits such as the Abu Sayyaf “even before the abductions that happened at Pearl Farm.”

Around 20 suspected Abu Sayyaf members attacked Pearl Farm on May 22, 2001 and killed two employees, wounding three.

There were no hostages in the midnight attack on the resort.

But this security issue is no longer present, said Lt. Col. Patrick Cinco, 10th Infantry Division Public Affairs chief.

“There is an existing security package between Task Force Davao, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy as far as terrorism is concerned,” Cinco, said.

Cinco said the Navy was ready to intercept armed groups passing through the Davao Gulf with its two Riverine patrol boats and Task Force Davao is ready to prevent and stop terrorism.

The Samal City Resort Owners Association (SCROA) has asked the local government of the Island Garden City of Samal to study their ordinance banning the creation of jetties and breakwaters fronting their resorts.

SCROA president Pastor “Jun” Lozada said the local government policy calling the structures illegal were questionable, as the city had already issued business permits even with knowledge that the structures existed.

Lozada leads a group of at least 20 resort owners from the city.

In January this year, Samal City Administrator Cleo Gales Jr. said the city, as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, would be compelled to ask the resort owners to demolish existing structures or pay fines per square meter unless the structures could be called a Special Investment Project worth at least P30 million.

The resort owners would be fined penalties starting from P5,000, depending on the extent of the violations.

He said the highest recorded penalty was P300,000.

The city has promptly demanded the demolition of jetties and breakwaters on the resorts and threatened the owners with non-renewal of business permits or fines per square meter on the structures.

Gales said resort owners were bound by law not to create structures on their shores and to allow open access among different shores.

He cited Article 638 of the Revised Civil Code relating to waters, which mandated resorts to free their beaches for public use. Gales also cited Article 51 of the Water code, which prohibited the creation of structures along river banks and sea and lake shores.

Lozada said city ordinance 2009-150, or the Revised Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, was questionable in that it threatened to demolish structures even as the government was already aware of their existence.

“The Water Code is not our concern. Why are we being fined when we are already paying business permits to the city government?” Lozada said.

He said the previous issuance of the business permits meant the city government already considered their structures legal and that not all of the resorts in Samal can be accessed by land and are better reached from the sea.