DENR admits lapses in keeping track of Coron reclamation
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) admitted lapses in the monitoring of a Coron reclamation project that had been “rushed” amid the pandemic.
DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones also raised the possibility of filing charges if there had been violations to environmental laws in the implementation of the project that should be brought to court.
“Nakikita nga rin namin iyan na mayroong kaunting lapse doon dahil dapat nakikita ng ating CENRO (Community Environment and Natural Resource Officer) or PENRO (Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Officer) in the region iyong progress noon kanilang gawain doon,” Leones said in a Laging Handa briefing on Friday.
(We also saw that there is a bit of a lapse on the part of our CENRO or PENRO in the region on the progress of the project.)
“Although talagang it’s hard to admit – medyo nagkulang tayo sa pagtingin doon kasi pinabilis eh. Parang ang nangyari kasi during the pandemic…doon sila nagmadali kung saan talagang busy tayo sa pag-address ng COVID-19…Noong makita natin, noong nalaman natin, talagang malaki na pala iyong nare-reclaim nila diyan sa Coron,” he added.
(Although it’s hard to admit—we lacked in monitoring the project because it was rushed. What seemed to have happened is that during the pandemic…the project was rushed when we were busy addressing COVID-19…When we saw it, the reclamation had already covered a massive area.)
However, he pointed out that the proponents of the project should have “faithfully” complied with environmental regulations once it received an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the agency.
Earlier, the DENR cancelled the ECC for the reclamation project in Coron, Palawan over a failure to comply with the required compliance monitoring report, among others.
“Dapat nagsu-submit sila ng report, mga updates…Nagkaroon ng lapses on the part of the proponent,” Leones said.
(They should have been submitting reports, updates…There are lapses on the part of the proponent.)
According to Leones, the reclamation of the area had been “slow” in the beginning but the DENR was “shocked” when it learned that the project had been “rushed” during the pandemic.
“Ang total kasi ng reclamation doon ay dapat 48 hectares…Can you imagine, 40 hectares na, base sa report, ang kanilang na-reclaim. So, iyon ang nangyari diyan,” he added.
(The reclamation was supposed to be 48 hectares…Can you imagine, they’ve already reclaimed 40 hectares, based on the report we received. That’s what happened there.)
“Because bigla silang nagmadali at marami ang nasira, hindi natin na-monitor, kung kaya nakita natin na malaking paglabag ito sa ating relokasyon kaya kinansel nila iyong mga permits na na-issue ng ating department sa kanila,” he also said.
(Because the project was rushed and a lot of damage has been done, we were not able to monitor, we saw violations, that’s why the local officers cancelled the permits the department has issued to the proponents.)
Leones said that the DENR is currently assessing the damage in the coastal area involved in the reclamation project.
He said charges will be filed if the DENR finds violations of provisions under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law and the Philippine Clean Water Act.
“Titingnan natin kung may malaking pananagutan sila, kung mayroon silang violations sa provision ng mga batas na ito. At tinitiyak namin na hindi lang administrative sanctions ang ibibigay namin sa kanila, kundi pati kriminal kung makita namin na dapat silang kasuhan sa korte,” the DENR official said.
(We will determine whether they are liable, if there are violations of the provisions under these laws. And we will make sure that not only administrative sanctions will be imposed, but also criminal cases if we see that they should be brought to the courts.)
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