P 93-M beach wall project in Romblon questioned | Inquirer News
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P 93-M beach wall project in Romblon questioned

Project undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways has not been endorsed by the Mimaropa Regional Development Council or the Department of Tourism
/ 04:40 AM December 21, 2020

SEAWALL ON THE BEACH Government agencies raise concern over a Department of Public Works and Highways project to construct a P93-million seawall on Carabao Island in San Jose town, Romblon province. Carabao Island is known for its “Boracay-like” beaches, referring to the adjacent and the more popular tourist attraction in Aklan province. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The private sector representative to the Regional Development Council (RDC) in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) has sounded the alarm over the construction of a shore protection causeway, or a concrete seawall, along the shoreline of Carabao Island, a prime but unsullied tourist destination in Romblon province.

The Department of Tourism (DOT), one of the RDC members, also wrote the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) last week to “clarify” the P93-million project for the “construction/improvement of access roads leading to [a] declared tourism destination-construction of shore protection causeway” in San Jose town.

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Carabao Island, which is under the municipality of San Jose, has equally stunning white sand beaches as its neighbor, the more popular Boracay Island of Aklan province.

In an online interview on Sunday, tourism director for Mimaropa Christopher Morales said the DOT did not endorse the project.

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Not included

“How can we approve a project without a proper study? There were no documents for us to review [like] environmental and feasibility studies,” Morales said.

The DPWH Romblon district engineer could not be immediately reached for a comment, but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which also sits in the RDC, inspected the project on Dec. 15 after residents reported seeing large boulders and heavy equipment on the San Jose beach.

Environmentalist Rodne Galicha, who raised the matter to the RDC as the private sector representative, said the project began on Dec. 2, with a target completion date on Nov. 7 next year.

The project was awarded to Sunwest Construction and Development Corp., which is owned by the family of Ako Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co. The firm earlier bagged another project in Romblon to construct the Magdiwang-San Fernando cross-country road.

In 2018, the DPWH suspended the road project after environmental groups warned that it would have traversed and disturbed Mt. Guiting-Guiting Natural Park.

No damage

“This project (seawall) is not included in the list endorsed by the RDC for [government funding in] 2020. I hope the DPWH can shed light; otherwise, it’s questionable,” Galicha said on Sunday.

He said he wanted to see historical records of storm surges on the island to justify the need for the infrastructure, as well as the bidding and procurement documents.

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In a separate phone interview on Sunday, Romblon Environmental Officer Mikko Landrito said the project was issued a certificate of noncoverage (CNC) by the Environmental Management Bureau on Sept. 17 after findings showed “no (potential) detrimental damage” to the environment.

Landrito said that since a CNC was issued, an environmental compliance certificate was no longer required. But he said it was not clear how long the seawall would run and was told by the contractor that it was only an extension of an existing coastal structure.

Based on the DENR inspection, Landrito said the contractor only laid out the boulders on the beach so that heavy equipment could move easily.

“Dredging [the beach] would be a different thing. We will keep monitoring it and issue a cease-and-desist [order] should there be any violation,” Landrito said.

“The project is supposed to enhance the accessibility to a [tourist] destination, but this may destroy the destination itself,” Galicha said. INQ

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TAGS: beach, concrete seawall, Mimaropa, romblon
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