Raps pushed vs DENR exec in Palawan
Tree-cutting case involves ABS-CBN FoundationBy Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
An investigating team created by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) has recommended that criminal and administrative charges be filed against a local environment official for allowing the cutting of 45 trees for a resort being built by a foundation run by one of the country’s biggest TV networks.
Herminia Caabay, PCSD legal officer, said the team found that Emelina Cojamco, community environment officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), abused her authority when she granted a permit to ABS-CBN Foundation to cut down trees within Sabsaban Falls in Brooke’s Point, Palawan.
In a statement, Caabay said the investigating team also found that the foundation didn’t have a permit when it started developing the falls into an ecotourism area last March.
She said Cojamco and the foundation violated Republic Act No. 7611, or the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) of Palawan Act, a special law that bans logging in Palawan’s forest areas, environmentally critical areas and watersheds.
“Cojamco is liable for issuing the cutting permit which is beyond her authority,” said Caabay.
Alfredo Abueg, PCSD adjudication board chair, said only Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and DENR regional executive directors were authorized to grant tree-cutting permits.
Contrary to the ABS-CBN Foundation’s claim, Caabay said the team found that the foundation was still negotiating an agreement with the local government of Brooke’s Point when it started clearing a portion of Sabsaban Falls on March 25.
Caabay said Brooke’s Point Mayor Narciso Leoncio admitted to the investigating team that the agreement between the local government and the foundation “was still being reviewed by the municipal legal office.”
Early this year, ABS-CBN Foundation executive director Gina Lopez led environment groups in asking Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to look into PCSD’s mining-related actions and decisions, which supposedly led to the destruction of the province’s forests and watersheds.
In a letter-complaint, the groups urged Morales to file cases against PCSD officials for failing to enforce laws against mining in Palawan.
They said PCSD officials allowed mining in natural forests in Palawan.