Graft plaint filed against 2 env’t, Fifth Ave. execs
Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City south district) filed a graft complaint yesterday at the Visayas Ombudsman against two environment officials and the executive vice president of the property developer of the Ciudad project.
Osmeña in his complaint said Fernando Quililan, regional director of the Environment Management Bureau (EMB); William Cunada, Environment Impact Assessment division chief; and Michael Lloyd Dino, executive vice president of Fifth Avenue Property Development Corp. had violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Osmeña said the three officials “conspired” to implement the multi-million development Ciudad project which would result in the cutting of 260 trees growing in the proposed project site in barangay Apas, Cebu City.
Osmeña also asked the Deputy Ombudsman of the Visayas Pelagio Apostol to preventively suspend Quililan and Cunada pending the investigation of the complaint against them.
“Since the case involves grave misconduct and neglect in the performance of duty and the continued stay of public respondents in office, it might prejudice the case filed against them,” Osmeña said.
He also asked the Ombudsman to investigate, impose proper administrative sanctions, and the proper information filed against them.
Osmeña, who called for a press conference at his Guadalupe residence to announce the filing of the complaint, said that he was also considering filing a complaint against the Capitol and Apas barangay officials for approving the Ciudad project.
Osmeña said he filed the complaint after learning that the the Ciudad project developer’s commitment not to cut the trees during last Dec. 2’s public hearing wouldn’t be honored.
Osmeña in his complaint cited a review committee formed after the hearing by Quililan and Cunada was allegedly created to justify the cutting of 263 trees within the project site.
Osmeña also pointed out that the committee was funded by the Fifth Avenue Property Development Corp.
Osmeña said he was concerned when a reliable source told him that lot developer submitted an Environment Impact Statement, which included the cutting of the trees in the project site.
Osmeña said that Quililan and Cunada acts conspired with Dino to create the Review committee with the intent to hide from the public the issue of tree cutting clearly violated environmental laws.
Osmeña cited the accused environmental officials alleged plan to approve the tampered and canceled title constitute acts prohibited by specific provision of the Graft and corrupt Practices Act.
Because of Osmeña’s complaint, Quililan said the DENR-7 would put on hold the issuance of an Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) of the Ciudad project.
“We had not yet issued an ECC on that project. The application is still under process in the EMB,” Quililan told Cebu Daily News.
Quililan, however, said that the DENR-7 was about to issue the ECC within the month after the review committee assigned on the project already completed its assessment.
“My conscience is clear. It is their right to file. But we will do our best to resolve the issue,” said Quililan, who added that he hadn’t received a copy of the complaint yet.
He said that the DENR-7 monitored and prohibited the cutting of the trees in the area as agreed during last year’s consultation on the project.
The developer Fifth Avenue promised to provide the land and construct the road for free or the 3.4-hectare property, which could save the government at least P280 million.
“We followed all the requirements. Despite the case, we are confident that DENR will look at the law. We will continue to comply with requirements,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said that the firm’s forrester during a tree inventory of the area last February reported that most of the trees in the area were “shortlive, exotic, non-endemic, no premium species.”
He said the forrester recommended that the exotic trees be cut while the endemic trees be earth-balled or moved to another area within the property.
He said the area had 48 ipil-ipil, 109 mahogany, 78 gmelina trees, which were all exotic species while the number of endemic or native tree species were 11 balete, five Narra, and three molave trees.
“According to our forrester, we can cut the exotic trees anytime,” he said.
“As much as we want to ball-out all the trees, it’s not practical to ball them out,” he said.
He said that if they would cut the trees, they would also plant endemic trees in other areas, as per instruction of the DENR.
The firm initially planned to create an access road passing through the Central Command to help ease traffic in the area aand at the same time they also promised to create jobs and help alleviate poverty.
The firm said that it expected an estimated income of P300 million for almost 2,800 employees.
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