Urban planner sues Angaras over Aurora project
Urban planner Felino Palafox took on the Angaras of Aurora province on Tuesday, filing a criminal complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman against Senator Edgardo Angara for pushing for the Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport Authority (Apeco) despite environmental concerns about the project site.
Palafox also claimed that the senator had a conflict of interest in Apeco as the latter’s family would benefit from the project, which covers 12,400 hectares.
Also named in the complaint for graft and violation of the code of ethics for government officials were the Apeco board of directors, which include Angara’s sister, Aurora Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, and his son, Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara.
Senator Angara is also accused of benefiting from the P10-billion Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which has been tainted with irregularities.
Palafox said the officials pushed for the development of the ecozone and ignored his recommendations about the site, which was prone to flooding.
He alleged that Senator Angara violated the antigraft law, which prohibits a member of Congress from acquiring or receiving any personal pecuniary interest in any specific business enterprise to be directly favored by any law or resolution that he had authored and which was approved or adopted by Congress during his term.
The senator was the author of Republic Act No. 9490 creating the Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority. It was amended in 2010, and a new law created Apeco.
Palafox took to task the father and son for holding positions in Apeco without forfeiting their seats as lawmakers, which he said violated the Constitution.
Under the law, the Apeco board is composed of six members, two of whom must be the congressional representative of the district covering the site of the Aurora ecozone, and the governor of Aurora province.
The senator was irked when asked about the graft case filed against him by Palafox. “Hindi naman importante yang ganyan (It’s not important). Wala naming kabuluhan ’yan (It has no significance),” he told reporters.
Angara said he would first get a copy of the complaint and issue an official statement in due time.
He later issued a statement attacking the architect.
The senator said Palafox and Associates, which was paid P32 million, came out with a master plan that was declared useless by the Philippine Ports Authority, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.
“It was a sloppy piece of design work that proposed a seaport very near an airport. That shabby piece of architecture would endanger the whole project, according to the agencies that evaluated the technical and environmental soundness of the Palafox master plan,” he said.
Angara said the self-proclaimed “internationally known architect” called the ecozone project a “scam” after his master plan was rejected.
“He accused us of benefiting from the project, which belongs to government and where our participation is a requisite of the law creating the ecozone, a project that has been considerably derailed by the faulty and shabby design work of Palafox,” Angara said.
Charges vs architect
Apeco administrators accused Palafox of violating the code of ethics of architects before the Professional Regulations Commission and of violating the code of ethics of environmental planners before the Environmental Planning Board under the commission because of his “useless design work with a billing of P32 million,” the senator said.
“The two charges seek to strip him of his license, which, hopefully, would strip him of the moral perch he has been using as platform for his professional bankruptcy and phoniness.” Angara said.
In his complaint, Palafox said his recommendations about the proper development of the ecozone site were ignored.
He said he was asked to fast-track all concept plans even in the absence of a feasibility study, topographic surveys, engineering surveys, titles, government permits, land conversion clearances, environmental impact assessment and environmental clearance certificate, among others.
He said the senator, with the concurrence of the Apeco board, sought to fast-track the plans to justify the approval of the budget which the Senate was deliberating on.
Prone to flooding
But the engineering surveys showed that portions of land for the project were prone to flooding and soil liquefaction, according to the urban planner.
He said he recommended that the design take into account a 100-year historical pattern of flooding. But according to him, Senator Angara did not heed his recommendation. Instead, the senator commented that he would be gone after 25 years, he added.
“The act of pushing for the Apeco development despite his knowledge of the soil liquefaction and flooding is contrary to law, contrary to public welfare, to public safety and to the environmental laws,” Palafox said.
The board also had a hand in the matter, he alleged.
“The Apeco board appears to be in complicity with this violation, as the board has not ordered any stop to the development of Apeco. This shows there is evident bad faith by the officers and board of Apeco,” he added.
Palafox further alleged that he had provided a list of 32 signatories required for land development clearances and permits, and 12 signatories for building permits, and also reminded Apeco about the need for other clearances and certificates.
But he said these were ignored.
The senator and the Apeco board were also liable for violating the code of ethics or government officials, Palafox contended.
The senator’s son said the case was timed to put his father “on the defensive” as the senator was pushing for Apeco’s budget in the Senate.
“It has become a pattern. Recall weak complaints being lodged at the Department of Justice last year. The case was weak but lot of news about it came out in the media,” the young Angara said, without citing any case.
“Unlike architect Palafox who was paid over P30 million for a master plan,” his father and the Apeco board members “do not get anything, not a single centavo, from Apeco,” Representative Angara said in a text message to the Inquirer.
The congressman said Palafox’s complaint could have been prompted by vengeance.
“It’s retaliation for earlier cases filed against architect Palafox by Apeco in PRC (Professional Regulation Commission) and other venues,” he added. With reports from Christian Esguerra in Manila; and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon
Originally posted: 5:49 pm | Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
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