Private project on Tanay river alarms locals; DENR steps in
MANILA, Philippines — Concerned residents in Tanay, Rizal province, have sounded the alarm over a private development project, which they fear will disrupt the natural flow of a river that runs through a protected area.
The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has acted on their complaint against the construction and dredging activities being done on a portion of Lanatin River in Barangay Cayabu.
A representative from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro), the DENR’s local office in Rizal, confirmed on Tuesday that a show cause order was delivered to Neil Short, a British national, on Oct. 14.
Short, however, refused to receive the document, according to the Penro representative.
The order, a copy of which was seen by the Inquirer, was dated Oct. 10 and addressed to both Short and his Filipino wife, Blessilda.
It noted that the couple “have been conducting unauthorized activities [using] heavy equipment and excavating the Lanatin River” within the Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve without a permit from Penro and the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).
Penro Rizal ordered the Shorts to immediately stop the project and explain in writing within five working days why it should not be terminated. The office said they may be cited for violating Republic Act No. 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Area System Act.
Under the law, unauthorized use of mechanized equipment to the detriment of a protected area is penalized with a fine of between P200,000 and P1 million, or imprisonment of one to six years, or both. Illegal construction or occupation of a piece of land without a PAMB or DENR clearance carries a P1-million to P5-million fine and a prison term of six to 12 years.
The show cause order issued to the Shorts was signed by Penro officer Ramil Limpiada.
Tanay environmental officer Suzette Villanueva said her office went to the project site for a “follow-up operation’’ on Tuesday afternoon but did not see the couple.
On Saturday, a group of Cayabu residents posted on social media a purported video of the 59-year-old Short operating a backhoe at the site.
In an interview with the Inquirer, Salvador Lao said he and his fellow villagers were questioning whether anyone could just alter the natural terrain within a protected area, noting that Lanatin River was within the Kaliwa watershed and forest reserve.
“We don’t own the land here. We were only given permits by the DENR to provide tourism and livelihood opportunities for the locals,” said Lao, who operates a tourist camp in the barangay.
And yet, he said, “this foreigner claimed he owns 20,000 hectares of land here.’’
He recalled that on Oct. 6, they noticed Short laying the foundations for a “dam” and redirecting the flow of the river. By Oct. 13, laborers had started transporting cement and steel bars to the project site.
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