BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Illegal structures, including resorts, lodging houses and restaurants, among others, built at the tourist destination areas of Brgys. Guimbalaon and Patag, Silay City, Negros Occidental, that form part of the Northern Negros Natural Park are facing imminent closure for lack of business and building permits,
“Worse, they are not paying taxes to the government,” said Silay Mayor Mark Golez, who presided over the meeting yesterday of the Patag Development Management Authority in Brgy. Patag, Silay City.
The unpaid taxes from these illegal structures can reach millions of pesos, Golez said, noting that some of them opened as early as 2004.
“If we allow these illegal activities to be tolerated, this will set a precedent later to other establishments in Silay City not to pay taxes, and to secure the necessary permits to conduct business,” Golez stressed.
On July 25 and 26, owners of 36 illegal structures in Sitio Lantawan, Brgy. Guimbalaon and those in Brgy.Patag, all in Silay City, were issued notices of violations by members of the Joint Inspection Team and City Legal Office of Silay.
After 10 days of serving the notice of violations, the next step is the issuance of cease-and-desist order, which will be on August 10, that will also pave the way for the closure (of their businesses), Golez said
He recalled that owners of illegal structures received the notices without any resistance, because they are aware of the violations they had committed.
However Golez also received feedback from some owners of business establishments asking help in making their business legitimate, since they have already invested a lot on them.
“If we don’t act on this now, the situation will only worsen,” Golez said, as he also raised the possibility that the Lantawan-Patag area may soon be another Boracay, as far as waste disposal is concerned, and will eventually lead to water contamination.
The concreting of the road that linked Sitio Lantawan in Brgy.Guimabalaon to Brgy.Patag in Silay City, through the efforts of then Rep. Alfredo Benitez, aside from the cool weather, have been considered a major factor that attracts tourists to explore those areas and opened business opportunities for investors.
CLOSED DUE TO PANDEMIC
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Golez said that owners of establishments voluntarily closed their businesses, following local transmission of the virus in one of the sitios in Brgy, Patag, Silay City.
He also justified the temporary prohibition of entry for tourists in those areas because of the COVID-19 threats.
Also present during the meeting with owners of business establishments, were the members of the City Council of Silay headed by Vice Mayor Tom Ledesma, Board Member Ryan Gamboa, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Edgardo Rostata, representatives of the Protected Area Management Board of NNNP and Provincial Environment Management Office, Provincial Tourism Officer Jennylind Cordero, among others.
Golez called on them to write him a letter signifying their intention in the protected area, which he will endorse to the PAMB for appropriate action.
Once PAMB decides to allow them to operate in the protected area, that will be the time for the city government of Silay to grant the necessary permits they are asking for, Golez said.
He also noted that majority of the investors came from Bacolod City, EB Magalona and other parts of the province, and are not paying taxes to the government.
A proposed ordinance for the creation of Patag-Guimbalaon Management and Development Authority was also formulated during the meeting, which will be deliberated on and subject to approval by the Silay City Sangguniang Panlungsod.
Golez said that the PGMDA will formulate policies to regulate activities within the NNNP area of Silay City.
On the other hand, Golez said he is offering the 11-hectare SORETA (Silay Outdoor Recreational and Ecological Tourism Area), which is the Old Hospital in Brgy. Patag, as an alternative area for tourists to stay, in the meantime, and its operation already got the approval of PAMB..
All they have to do, is to coordinate with the City Tourism Office for their bookings, he added.*