Port project on Samal Island ‘destroyed’ corals | Inquirer News

Port project on Samal Island ‘destroyed’ corals

/ 05:02 AM July 08, 2023

Port project on Samal Island ‘destroyed’ corals.

DAMAGED REEF The ancillary port constructed to unload heavy equipment for the construction of the Samal Island-Davao City connector bridge, as shown in this photo taken on June 8, is embedded on a living coral reef, according to marine biologist John Lacson. —PHOTO BY MARINE BIOLOGIST JOHN LACSON

DAVAO CITY—A marine biologist has raised the alarm over the destruction of corals in the offloading port constructed for the Samal Island-Davao City connector bridge.

Dr. John Lacson said a video has shown that the metal frames of the ancillary port recently built to offload heavy equipment for the construction of the bridge that will link Davao City and Samal Island actually embedded into the living corals of the reef.


“Although direct construction of the bridge is paused, an ancillary project of [the] DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), which is a seaport intended for offloading of heavy equipment, is being built within 25 meters of a reef adjacent to Paradise Reef,” he said.


Lacson the port construction violated the Philippine Fisheries Code which states that it is “unlawful for any person, entity, or corporation to perform activities that damage coral reefs.”

Lacson, a marine biologist with a doctorate on biological science in the University of Texas, said he had regularly visited the area to monitor the health of the reefs but when he first checked on the Paradise Reef on June 3, he noticed the metal structures of the newly constructed port.

Five days later, he decided to have a closer look and saw that the metal frames of the new structure were actually embedded on the corals.

Public Works Secretary Manuel Bonoan, reached by phone on Friday, told the Inquirer he would look into the concern.

“We just have to investigate. Tingnan namin (Let us see),” he said.

He said he was made to understand that “the construction of the Samal bridge project is being closely monitored by a team composed of [officials of the] DPWH, the local government and other stakeholders every step of the way.”


He added: “We just have to find out if this has gone through their scrutiny,” he said.


This developed as the lawyers of the Lucas-Rodriguez family, who owned the Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort and its adjacent Costa Marina resort on Samal island, petitioned the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to suspend or cancel the environment compliance certificate (ECC) of the bridge project because of the violations.

In a June 8 letter to Gilbert Gonzales, director of DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), the lawyers cited the construction of the port as among the violations. The port was not one of the activities identified in the project’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report, the basis of the ECC issuance, they noted.

“[The construction of the port] was not listed in the preconstruction process nor was it included in the environment management plan,” the letter signed by lawyer Ramon Edison Batacan of the Batacan Montejo Vicencio and Valdez Law Firm read.

The law firm also cited the destruction of the corals, a violation of Section 96 of the Revised Philippine Fisheries Code: “Coral reefs have been damaged as a result of the construction and as the illegal construction continues in haste, there will be more damage. The activity being outside the identified and allowable [activities] under the EIA, its impacts including severe environmental risks and potential for pollution were not properly assessed. Due to the omissions, there are no mitigating measures in place.”

No action

The law firm said their petition was also sent to concerned agencies and officials, among them the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao, the Environment Ombudsman Program of the Ombudman’s office in Diliman, Quezon City, to Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga and Secretary Bonoan, but had not been acted until now.

But Bonoan said it was the first time for him to hear about the lawyers’ petition to the DENR.

Lacson, on the other hand, said he had notified former DENR-Davao Regional Director Bagani Fidel Evasco about the destruction of the corals and the latter had asked him for its exact geographic location so that his office could act on the complaint. Evasco, however, had been replaced by lawyer Mercedes Dumagan, who is currently on leave.

Maria Antonette Andolana, head executive assistant to the DENR-Davao director, said by phone on Friday they would look into the complaint.


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Expropriation starts for proposed Samal Island-Davao City bridge landing site

TAGS: bridge, coral, marine, project, Samal

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