Groups protest Chinese contractor’s second attempt to drill holes in Samal bridge landing site
DAVAO CITY — Environment groups protested the second attempt of the Chinese contractor of the Samal Island-Davao City connector bridge to drill holes on the proposed landing point of the bridge along the coast of Costa Marina Beach Resort.
The Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU)-based environment advocacy group Ecoteneo and the Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) were immediately on Samal Island on Sunday when they learned that three Chinese nationals aboard a barge and a tugboat, had docked along the coast of Costa Marina at 4:30 pm, trying to drill holes without the consent of the resort owners.
Mylai Santos, executive director of the Ecoteneo, said this was the second time that the Chinese contractor attempted to drill holes on the proposed bridge landing, even if the groups still needed to present to the Davao City Council their proposal to relocate the bridge landing to another area, where it would not threaten the coral reefs.
Dean Oritz, spokesperson of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Davao region, however, said in another statement that the DPWH no longer considered the proposal of the groups and affected landowners to realign the landing point of the 3.98 kilometer bridge that would connect Samal Island to Davao City.
“At this stage, realignment is no longer feasible. It is not within the scope of the loan,” said Ortiz in reply to Inquirer’s query.
He said altering the design of the project, which is funded by a US$350 million loan from China, would require another tedious feasibility study process and would also cost more.
Ecoteneo reported that the barge M/V Rotsky and a tugboat stopped around Point 89 of the bridge’s marker area along the coast of Costa Marina.
“On board were three Chinese nationals in PPEs (personnel protective equipment) resembling the Chinese contractor who previously attempted to initiate borehole drilling at the Lucas beach property without permission.
On board the vessel were drilling equipment and many sacks of unknown contents stacked on top of each other,” said an advisory issued by the Ecoteneo and the Sustainable Davao Movement. “The group appeared to drop an object in the water, (and there was a rope) extending from the vessel.”
But the vessels left the area at 5 p.m. and was seen docked in the area fronting the Azuela Cove, the landing point of the bridge in Davao City, at 9 p.m. Sunday.
The incident happened days after the Davao City Council on October 11 calendared the SIDC bridge’s discussion in its agenda. Ecoteneo expected a joint hearings of the city council committees on environment, tourism and transportation to study the impact of the bridge project on the coral reefs and marine life of the island.
They also cited the joint dive with DENR on October 12, when the DENR in Davao region acknowledged the existence of hard corals, soft corals and seagrass community in the area in a report posted on social media.
“All intrusions of over-eager foreign contractors must stop before final decisions have been made by the Filipino people through its government agencies and the Philippine government,” the Ecoteneo and SDM statement said.
This developed as the agency set aside this year P259 million for right-of-way. It also included its request for additional funding for the same purpose next year for those areas that would be used for the project.
Ortiz downplayed the claim of the environment groups. He said DPWH first sought the clearance of the DENR office in the Davao region to identify the protected areas covered by the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System Act of 2018 near the proposed bridge. They also made the same request to the City Environment and Natural Resources Office and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office.
Oritz said they were able to secure a certification that the the proposed landing spot was outside the e-NIPAS and that they submitted the certification to the Environmental Management Bureau for assessment.
He said the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) issued a clearance and expression of support for the Samal Island-Davao City bridge project on October 8, 2020, and certified that the project was outside the Samal Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (SIPLS) under eNIPAS.
The alternative landing site that the landowners proposed was near the area proposed by the Japanese government’s Ministry Economy, Trade and Industry (Meti) in 2016.
Davao-Samal bridge hounded by land, env’t impact issues
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