Robredo sued over Cebu reclamation project

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MANILA, Philippines—An environment group and fisherfolk from Cebu have filed a criminal case against several  government officials over a reclamation project in the municipality of Cordova in Cebu which they said would destroy marine resources and worsen the effects of climate change.

Named in the complaint were Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and several local officials.

The complainants said the project was illegal and did not have the approval of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA). They said the officials also refused to investigate the project.

The complaint was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas by the Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) represented by Gloria Ramos and Mary Joan Dulhao, and fisherfolk and nongovernment organization members Cirilo Pagobo, Edie Quijano, Alejandro Baguio, Victor Lapaz, Owen Migraso, Gerlie Migraso, Vince Cinches and Owen Migraso.

Also named respondents were Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy, Vice Mayor Rodrigo Jumaoas, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Regional Director Ananias Villacorta, Environmental Management Bureau Director Fernando Quililan and EMB officer in charge William Cunado.

According to the complainants, the officials violated the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, the Local Government Code, the Anti-Red Tape Act, the Code Of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Authorities, as well as committed abuse of authority, illegal expenditures, grave misconduct and gross dereliction of duty.

In their complaint, they said PRA general manager Anthony Abaya informed them that neither the Cordova municipality nor the Cebu province had complied with the requirements for the PRA to evaluate and process the application for reclamation.

The PRA is responsible for integrating, directing and coordinating all reclamation projects for and on behalf of the national government.

The PRA provided the information upon the request of  the PEJC, which asked for the data shortly after hearing about the 20-hectare reclamation project in December last year.

Last month, the PEJC also sent a letter to Garcia and Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, asking them to stop the reclamation project because of Cebu’s vulnerability to climate change and the lack of PRA approval.

Strategic importance

In opposing the project, it cited the strategic importance of the diverse ecosystems in Cordova, ecological integrity, food security, ecotourism and shipping. It also asked for copies of pertinent documents related to the Project.

“By implementing the Project, and by the DILG’s inaction and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ highly questionable issuance of ECC (environmental compliance certificate), amid the continuing disasters that we face, the respondent public officials are not serious in addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation and the implementation of our laws,” they said.

They lamented the officials’ lack of transparency in allegedly failing to disclose the scope and extent of the project, and to release copies of the environmental impact assessment, and the plans and agreements submitted by the proponent.

They alleged that the project was inconsistent with the Integrated Coastal Resource Management Plant of Cordova, and that the officials failed to integrate concerns about human rights, climate change, sustainable development and disaster risk reduction in the undertaking.

The officials also supposedly failed to implement, and may have even violated, environmental protection and antipollution laws, with the DILG failing to do its part to supervise the local governments as well, the complainants further said.

They also decried the “E-Gwen” signages, which they said was contrary to the policy against the use of the names and faces of officials in publicly funded projects.

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