Save Cebu Movement: No to Santa Fe coastal barrier construction

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Ballescas - The Freeman

“The captivating expanse of Santa Fe’s pristine white sandy beach, a rival to renowned destinations like Boracay and Puerto Galera, faces an imminent threat,” according to Save Cebu Movement, a coalition of youth/academe/faith-based/and civil society organizations.

“On 9 August 2023, Cebu Province’s Governor issued Memorandum 21-2023 directing Rovilla Construction Company to immediately construct a coastal barrier along the shoreline of Barangay Talisay in Santa Fe, the objective, allegedly, to prevent ‘further erosion/irreparable damage.’” The Philippine National Police and Coast Guard have also been directed to ensure that these “construction works are implemented without any disturbance.”

The Save Cebu Movement noted that the Cebu Governor’s Memorandum 21-2023 “came about without undertaking prior scientific assessment of the suitability/compatibility of a coastal barrier to address the problem given Santa Fe’s topography and without notifying and consulting stakeholders about the said plan.”

The Save Cebu Movement vehemently objects to this coastal barrier construction for the following reasons:

“First, the implementation of coastal barriers will have a detrimental effect on Santa Fe’s coastlines.

“A recent case study on Santa Fe’s eroding shorelines by Dr. Janice C. Leriorato of the University of San Carlos unveiled that seawalls can worsen coastal erosion, resulting in transport of sand offshore and gradual beach narrowing.

“Hasty seawall construction risks the irreversible loss of Santa Fe’s unique and renowned, long white sand beach, jeopardizes the tourism sector, and, restricts public access to shoreline, fisherfolk’s docking rights.

“The construction of the port and the seawall in Marlin’s Beach Resort is proving that seawalls will not solve but aggravate the existing coastal problem, will not only destroy the shoreline but will also create a negative impact on the nearby marine ecosystems- the seagrasses/corals- with the resulting high sedimentation rate.

“Second, Santa Fe is considered an environmentally critical area, being part of the Ta?on Strait Protected Seascape covered by the ENIPAS Act in 2018.

“Consequently, any project cannot proceed without first conducting an environmental impact assessment to gauge its cumulative impact to the environment.

“Section 12 of ENIPAS states that “no actual implementation of such activities shall be allowed…and violations of environmental laws, rules and regulations, including those under the EIA System, shall be penalized accordingly.

“Third, DILG MC 2022-018 emphasizes LGU’s obligation to ensure the proper execution of the EIA process and that the proposed project is consistent with all LGU development/sector plans

“LGUs are also reminded that in no case shall it issue a Letter of No Objection without first conducting an EIA, the results of which shall be the basis whether to approve the project.

“Furthermore, a willful violation of said DILG MC shall be subject to administrative, civil or criminal liability in accordance with existing laws.

“Lastly, construction of permanent structures within the 40-meter easement is a prohibited act under ENIPAS.

“The prosperity/tourism sector of Santa Fe hinges significantly upon its innate resources: its pristine white sand beaches/and its marine resources.

“Any decision regarding the establishment of coastal defenses will significantly impact on the marine ecosystem, the livelihoods of fisherfolk, and the general public’s entitlement to unobstructed coastal access.

“Hence, the community should be involved as well, not only the LGUs.”

Save Cebu Movement suggests resorting to alternative natural, non-destructive, eco-and-cost friendly solutions to effectively tackle the coastal erosion issue.

An example: The nourishment/revitalization of beach/underwater vegetation- to mitigate beach erosion by utilizing the vegetation’s sediment-trapping and binding capabilities, to reduce the force of wave energy hitting the coastline, and, to yield positive outcomes for local wildlife/fish populations.

Save Cebu Movement “calls on the provincial government to revoke the memorandum and mobilize government/and its resources on nature-based solutions.

Save Cebu Movement also calls on the Santa Fe LGU to refrain from giving permission without first studying and publicly discussing the project’s environmental/health/social/economic/cultural costs.

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