People's CornerLetter to the EditorOmbudsman asked to look into Pantawan 2 reclamation

Ombudsman asked to look into Pantawan 2 reclamation

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Two environmental NGOs, Kahugpungan para sa Kinabuhi ug Kinaiyahan and Friends of the Environment in Negros Oriental (FENOr), along with five coastal community members in Brgy. Tinago in Dumaguete City, have submitted a 44-page complaint before the City/Provincial Fiscal last Sept. 29.

They are asking the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the Pantawan 2 Extension reclamation project.

The Pantawan 2 Extension reclamation project started in the first quarter of last year. The area in question is a 1.9-hectare reclamation site facing the coastal community of Purok Ubos, Brgy. Tinago in Dumaguete City.

It can be recalled that the Philippine Reclamation Authority had issued a Cease and Desist Order against the project because it lacks the necessary PRA approvals.

An Environmental Compliance Certificate was granted to the Pantawan 2 reclamation on June 18, 2019. However, this ECC was suspended by the Environmental Management Bureau in September 2019 due to “project implementation sans a Notice to Proceed.”

The DENR-issued Area Clearance given in December 2019 only covered the development project along Rizal Boulevard in Barangay Poblacion 4.

The Complainants say that the Pantawan 2 Extension project is, therefore, an illegal reclamation.

The coalition NoTo174Dumaguete made an inquiry, and subsequent follow-ups with the Department of Environment & Natural Resources Region 7 and the PRA from March until Sept. 23.

The agencies wrote back to say that “no Application to Reclaim was received by the PRA, and that DENR 7 has not issued or recommended the issuance of an ECC” in relation to the Pantawan 2 Extension reclamation.

The project is worth P74 million, funded by the local government through the Appropriation Ordinance No. 41, series of 2022, passed by the Dumaguete City Council on June 23, 2022.

The Ordinance includes the following items: 1) continuance of the construction of shoreline protection from the Press Club building until Barangay Poblacion 1 (P40 million);  2) construction of an Olympic-sized swimming pool (P30 million); and 3) the continuance of the landscape improvement of Rizal Boulevard-Phase 3 (P4 million).

The unauthorized extension of Pantawan 2 raises evidence of impunity, illegally disbursing government funds in violation of procurement laws and policies.

The filed complaints cited violation of sections 3(e) and 3(g) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which declares that it is unlawful for any public officer to cause “any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”

The Complainants are demanding accountability from those responsible for creating an environmentally- destructive project that will displace the urban and fisherfolk communities.

Moreover, they are urging the City government to stop the illegal reclamations—disguised as shoreline protection—and, instead, “invest in smarter, less expensive, and regenerative projects that protect our marine ecosystem, enable coastal forestry, and ensure the stewardship of fishing communities.” (Reprinted from the Oct. 16 column ‘Rising Sun’ in the Business Mirror.)

 

Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II

 

 

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