Puraran foreshore dispute need not become an election issue
Baras, Catanduanes  ·  
posted 24-Feb-2019  ·  
1,642 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

Until now, the municipal government of Baras and the resort owners in Catanduanes’ most famous tourist destination, Puraran, have yet to meet on neutral ground to discuss the matter of the foreshore land occupied by the resorts.

It may be recalled that recently, one of these resort owners lamented before provincial officials involved in tourism development that the administration of Mayor Chito Chi refused to issue a clearance that would allow the resorts to apply for a Foreshore Lease Agreement (FLA) covering the area on which structures for the use of tourists had been built.

According to documents shown during the meeting with some members of the Provincial Tourism Council, the LGU refused to issue a clearance stating that the land applied for is not needed for a tourism-related development and that it is suited for the purpose applied for.

In a letter addressed to OIC-PENRO Marlon Francia, Baras’ planning and development officer, Rogelio Tendencia, claimed that upon consultation with the Municipal Land Use Committee the whole stretch of shoreline within Baras, including Puraran beach, is “for the interest of common user is reserved for open public use and not subject for lease agreement.”

The MPDC also certified that the Puraran area is already included in the proposed comprehensive land use plan as a tourism zone.

The denial of the requests of the Puraran resort owners subsequently led to Baras becoming the first town ever, according to OIC-PENRO Francia, to oppose a Foreshore Lease Application.

Describing the MPDC’s reasoning as “very vague,” Francia noted that during deliberations on the recently approved Provincial Foreshore Management Plan attended by MPDCs of the 11 towns as well as key stakeholders, the representative of Baras did not raise any issue about the existing commercial use of the Puraran foreshore.

Although the MPDC letter to the PENRO did not attach the minutes of the alleged MLUC consultation on the issue,Tendencia’s contention that the town’s foreshore is reserved for “open” public use and “not subject for lease agreement” is said to be contrary to the spirit and letter of Commonwealth Act 141.

Said Act grants the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources the power to grant “temporary permission to qualified persons the use of foreshore areas, upon payment of a reasonable charge, for any lawful private purpose, subject to revocation at any time when, in his judgment, the public interest shall require it.”

One experienced development planner also notes that the LGU’s claim that Puraran is included as a tourism zone in the proposed Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) of the municipality can be taken to mean that the LGU intends to develop the entire foreshore area of Baras into a tourism site by itself.

Does this mean that the administration of Mayor Chi has enough funds this year and the following years to fully develop its all-encompassing tourism zone by itself?

Is it not a fact that that all of the town’s foreshore land is open for public use, even if there are beach resorts built on the land in front of it?

This confusing state of things should be remedied in the soonest possible time, first by PENRO Francia asking the DENR regional legal office to comment on the issue, and, second, by the municipal government itself taking the lead to discuss the problem with the resort owners in the presence of provincial tourism officials.

Failure to these easy tasks would add to the fire lit by PBM Vincent Villaluna’s decidedly mischievous allegation that politics is behind the Baras leaders’ refusal to grant the FLA clearance.

Mayor Chi, the SP tourism committee and the provincial tourism officer should be reminded that they have just a month to resolve the dispute before it becomes a testy issue by March 29 when the official campaign period for local candidates begins.

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