Palawan body seeks temporary closure of Lopez’s eco-tourism projectBy Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines — The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) is seeking the temporary closure of an “eco-tourism resort” of the ABS-CBN Foundation in the province for its alleged failure to secure the necessary permit for the project.
In a statement, PCSD legal chief Adel Belena said the foundation did not apply for a clearance as required by the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan Act when it purportedly started “occupying and converting” Sabsaban Falls in Brooke’s Point town into an eco-tourism resort.
Under the law creating the PCSD, all proposals for temporary closures are handled and implemented by the PCSD Adjudication Board, a body within the PCSD.
SEP, or Republic Act 7611, is a special law intended to ensure that the forest areas in the province would be protected through a total commercial logging ban in environmentally critical areas and watersheds.
It is also aimed at protecting indigenous groups and their culture, and the endangered species and their habitats in Palawan.
Belena accused the foundation, through its advocacy arm Bantay Kalikasan, of violating Administrative Order No. 6 when it “occupied the falls” located in the forest area of Brookes’ Point.
“The order requires an SEP clearance for all projects affecting the environment and natural resources of Palawan, including government projects,” Belena said.
“The (ABS-CBN Foundation) should have secured an individual SEP clearance for occupation of Sabsaban Falls, development of the place, cutting of trees, construction of cottages and others,” he added.
The PCSD official stressed that the council was not opposing the foundation’s project, but only “the absence of SEP clearance for each of the activities undertaken by the (foundation).”
In view of the supposed violation, Teodoro Baltazar, head of the PCSD Enforcement Unit, filed a complaint in the PCSD Adjudication Board against ABS-CBN Foundation executive director Gina Lopez and 18 local government officials who purportedly allowed the project without requiring an SEP clearance.
Baltazar petitioned the adjudication board to issue a cease and desist order against Lopez’s group “until it has secured an SEP clearance from the PCSD.”
Last February, environment groups led by Lopez asked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to look into PCSD’s mining-related actions and decisions, which reportedly led to the destruction of the province’s forests and watersheds.
In a letter-complaint, the environment groups moved for the filing of appropriate cases against the PCSD officials for their supposed failure to implement the rules and policies spelled out in SEP to protect Palawan from destructive human activities such as mining.
They said the PCSD officials issued SEP clearances for mining operations located in natural forests, noting that nine mining firms had secured clearances for their operations that “covered and endangered natural forests.”
“The issuance of SEP clearances paved the way for the conduct of mining operations in natural old growth and residual forests,” the environment groups said.
Tags: ABS-CBN Foundation , Adel Belena , Brooke’s Point , environment , Environmental Issues , Gina Lopez , Local authorities , Local Governments , News , Palawan , Palawan Council for Sustainable Development , Regions , Sabsaban Falls , Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan Act