Bohol first district representative, Rene L. Relampagos had recently filed twin bills seeking to declare the up-thrust caused by the 2013 earthquake as alienable and disposable lands in favor of the local government units concerned and create a tourism economic zone for Loon town.
It can be recalled that the devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol and neighboring provinces on October 15, 2013 resulted in, among others, the uplift of a portion of the intertidal zone within the municipal waters of the Municipalities of Loon and Maribojoc, Province of Bohol, covering an aggregate area of 458.01 hectares.
About 417.71 hectares traversing Barangays Canhangdon Occidental, Biasong, Basac, Napo, Cogon Norte, Moto Norte, Moto Sur, Lintuan, Basdacu, Pig-ot, Tangnan, Cuasi, Tontonan and Song-on in the Municipality of Loon and 40.3 hectares in Barangays Lagtangon, Guiwanon, and Punta Cruz in the Municipality of Maribojoc, Province of Bohol.
For various reasons, the uplifted coastal zone has become an object of interest of local and national governments, community members, the academe, scientists, land use planners and private individuals, among others.
On May 16, 2014, the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Loon approved Resolution No. 274, series of 2014, seeking to suspend the issuance of a presidential proclamation that would declare the uplifted reef flat as public land. If so declared, the uplifted land would become property of the national government.
Without consultation with the local government units concerned, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued DENR-Administrative Order No. 2015-08 on May 14, 2015 with title, “Declaring the Loon-Maribojoc Uplifted Coast as a Geological Monument”. Said issuance, covering 137.1 hectares, was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on May 16, 2015 but was received only by the Municipality of Loon on May 25, 2015. The Sangguniang Bayan of Loon strongly objected to the department issuance through Resolution No. 330, series of 2015 and jointly with the Sangguniang Bayan of Maribojoc through Joint Resolution 001, series of 2015. Further, said municipalities moved to have the uplifted flat reef become part of their respective territorial jurisdictions by virtue of Joint Resolution No. 01, series of 2017.
The third term congressman said, “I think there should be no debate here. Under Section 131, paragraph 23, of the Local Government Code of 1991 or Republic Act No. 7160, which advocates devolution of powers and strengthens local governance, municipal waters are owned by the municipalities which has jurisdiction over the same. The uplifted flat reef were once part of the municipal waters of the municipalities of Loon and Maribojoc, Province of Bohol, hence, ownership necessarily belongs to them. Fair and square.”
On December 14, 2014, to protect the uplifted flat reef, the Sangguniang Bayan of Loon enacted Resolution No. 14-003, series of 2014 establishing the “Loon Coastal Geomorphic Conservation Park” at the uplifted intertidal zone from Barangay Song-on to Canhangdon Occidental. In view of this legislation, a Development Master Plan is currently underway that seeks to balance protection to environment, preservation of the geological monument and economic development in the area.
For its part, the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Maribojoc likewise passed Resolution No. 197, series of 2014 seeking to declare the uplifted land for classification purposes and Resolution No. 010, series of 2015 seeking to declare the same as alienable and disposable land.
“Without question, this first-in-the-country-phenomenon of upthrust must be preserved for scientific and historical purposes. However, the same should not apply to the entire uplifted flat reef. The economic and tourism value of the whole area would greatly help both the local and the national governments. From employment generation to capital investment to economic development, this piece of property is seen to complement the whole tourism and economic activities offered by Panglao Island and the whole Province of Bohol,” Rep. Relampagos said.
“This is will go perfectly with the proposal to declare the Loon Upthrust located at the Municipality of Loon, Province of Bohol a Tourism Enterprise Zone.”
The new land form has enormous tourism-development potentials. The Municipality of Loon, a thirty-minute drive from the capital Tagbilaran City, is strategic in terms of location and resources. Loon hosts the Catagbacan Port groomed as an international cruise ship port and a priority by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the Department of Tourism (DOT).
In fact, the uplifted flat reef has been included in the development plan that identifies the area as a potential geological tourism attraction under the Loon Enterprise Zone which was recently approved by the Regional Development Council. Eventually, Loon will be established as one of the flagship Tourism Enterprise Zones in the Philippines by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).
He concluded, “Viewed together with the recent opening of direct flights to and from Korea and the incoming opening of the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, the establishment of the Loon Upthrust Tourism Enterprise Zone (Loon Upthrust TEZ) for residential, investment, tourism and other activities could not be more timely and will definitely spur economic development in the region.”