DENR halts Argao’s project

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Saturday, July 12, 2014


THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 yesterday issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) against a project of the Argao Municipal Government in the coastal barangay of Binlod.

DENR 7 officials, led by regional technical director Eduardo Inting, found that the Municipal Government has started backfiling at some fishponds in Sitio Candabong, Barangay Binlod.

An official of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) in Argao alleged that the backfilling at the fishpond was part of the town's proposed sports and recreational center project. This was denied by Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos, who said the Municipal Government is merely repairing the seaward wall of a fishpond that was run by a village cooperative.

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Cenro Argao Officer Flordeliza Geyrozaga issued a CDO against the project, saying the backfilling with anapog or crushed limestone led to the building of a road in the area.

She said the Municipal Government proceeded with the project even though DENR 7 Director Isabelo Montejo denied the mayor’s application for tenure over the fishpond.

The fishpond has a hatchery for bangus or milkfish and was managed by the Binlod Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BMPC).

Sports center

Geyrozaga said Galeos wrote Montejo applying for tenure over the area for the proposed Argao Sports and Recreational Center.

But last May, Montejo denied Galeos’s request as the area was found during a ground survey to be part of a lowland timberland area or mangrove forest.

Montejo said the development in the area could affect the mangrove trees growing there.

In an interview, Galeos and Municipal Administrator Vip Semilla said the project is separate from the proposed Argao Sports and Recreational Center.

During yesterday’s inspection, Inting, Geyrozaga and other DENR 7 officials found that backfilling was done on the fishpond and some mangrove trees were covered with anapog.

Seawall

Felix Albarando, the town's agricultural technologist, told DENR officials and reporters that the work was part of efforts to repair the part of the seawall protecting the fishpond. He said the seawall was damaged by typhoons, which affected the fishpond’s production.

He told DENR officials that the road Geyrozaga mentioned was built merely to provide passage for construction materials and heavy equipment.

He said there was no need to secure an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the project because they were just repairing an existing pathway.

He said that even if the seawall repair is completed, they will not remove the limestone backfilling as it would serve as extra protection for the fishpond.

Galeos said the project is part of efforts to protect the bangus fish cages in Binlod, which has the approval of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

He said Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala gave P1.7 million to fix the seawall and P120,000 as financial aid to allow the fisherfolk to repair fish cages.

This is not the first time that DENR questioned Galeos’s projects. Earlier, it filed charges against the Argao mayor for allegedly cutting trees in relation to the building of a road in the mountain barangay of Jampang.

Eddie Llamedo, DENR 7 spokesperson, told reporters that aside from the CDO, they are considering options to petition the court to issue a temporary environmental protection order if Galeos refuses to stop development in the area.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 12, 2014.

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