Cebu town reclamation hits another snag | Inquirer News

Cebu town reclamation hits another snag

By: - Senior Reporter / @inquirervisayas
/ 04:40 AM October 05, 2022
PROTECTING FISHING GROUND Fishermen in Consolacion, Cebu, and their supporters hold a fluvial parade in October 2021 to oppose a reclamation project backed by the local government, which they say will destroy their fishing grounds. STORY: Cebu town reclamation hits another snag

PROTECTING FISHING GROUND | Fishermen in Consolacion, Cebu, and their supporters hold a fluvial parade in October 2021 to oppose a reclamation project backed by the local government, which they say will destroy their fishing grounds. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines  —The 235.8-hectare reclamation project in Consolacion town, Cebu, has hit another snag.

The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) returned the municipality government’s application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), one of the requirements before a dump-and-fill project could move forward.

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The failure of the town to submit additional requirements within the prescribed period was the main reason cited by the DENR for returning the application on Sept. 1.

The Inquirer tried to reach Consolacion Mayor Teresa Alegado, but she did not respond to phone calls or text messages on Tuesday. Dr. Nerito Martinez, a project consultant for Consolacion, declined to issue a statement when contacted by the Inquirer through phone.

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Alegado and her predecessor, son Joannes, have been pushing to reclaim 235.8 ha of seawater, including the foreshore area, which the local government planned to transform into an economic and tourism hub called “Seafront City.”

The project was in partnership with a private consortium, La Consolacion Seafront Development Corp., which was incorporated in October 2019 with a capital investment of P10 million, based on records of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Environmentalist groups, including Oceana Philippines, opposed the project, citing its “irreversible” impact on the environment as it would not only mean destroying marine resources but also leveling mountains where rocks and soil would be taken as filling materials.

In a Sept. 20 letter to Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana Philippines, EMB Central Visayas director William Cuñado said the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project was returned to the municipality.

Incomplete

Cuñado cited Department Administrative Order No. 2003-30, where the EMB would have to return the application if the proponent failed to submit additional information within the required period.

The proponent has 18 months to reapply with the additional information without having to pay processing and other fees. Otherwise, the matter would be treated as a new application.

The EMB said proponents of the Consolacion reclamation project had incomplete response to the additional information requested by the Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee during the first meeting as well as issues raised by shipyard owners, Oceana and other groups opposing the project.

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The local government also did not present full documentation of the public hearing, including the attendance of stakeholders and the general public; information shared and how it was disseminated to various groups; summary of issues raised that were beyond the mandate of the EMB; and transcription and video documentation of the proceedings of the public hearing, among others.

Ramos, who represents Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization focused on ocean conservation, welcomed the decision of EMB.

“Consolacion, led by its mayor, should prioritize complying with its mandate of environmental protection under the Constitution, Local Government Code, Fisheries Code, and other related laws and regulations, and ensure that the strict legal/procedural requirements are met through environmental impact assessment and inclusion of stakeholders, including fisherfolk and coastal communities from the initiatory stage and onwards,” she told the Inquirer.

“This is a victory resulting from the strong collaboration among stakeholders from various sectors and communities, including those from government, such as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) central office which directed the regional director to withdraw its controversial letter of no objection (Lono).”

Notice

In March 2022, the BFAR in Central Visayas recalled its decision to issue a Lono to Consolacion, which would have attested that no marine ecosystem would be affected by its proposed project.

But fishermen from Consolacion and those from the neighboring cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu protested, saying they had been fishing in the waters off Barangay Tayud, the proposed reclamation site.

Allan Poquita, the BFAR regional director, later recalled the Lono, explaining that the regional office had no authority to issue the document.

Environmental lawyer Liza Osorio considered the actions of the BFAR and EMB-DENR as “mini victories” in the fight against the reclamation project in Consolacion.

“This really puts all local governments and proponents of dump-and-fill projects on notice that they must comply with all environmental safeguards in our laws as there are now strict accountability measures in place,” she said.

Osorio, legal and policy director of Oceana Philippines, said the pronouncement of former President Rodrigo Duterte to stop processing applications for reclamation projects in the country must be followed by the executive agencies unless lifted.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government has also ordered all local governments to seriously uphold their critical role in protecting the environment and complying with the safeguards provided by existing laws and regulations.

RELATED STORIES

Shipyard workers hold rallies vs Consolacion reclamation project

For Cebu town exec, reclamation still a go

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TAGS: Consolacion reclamation project, environmental management bureau, Teresa Alegado
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