RESIDENTS of Zone 2 in Barangay Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City, are opposing the construction of a funeral parlor, embalming facilities and crematorium along the highway, citing environment and health reasons.

Gemma Pabayo-Velasco, a native of the barangay who leads a group of protesting residents, said they are not saying “no” to the planned project of St. Peter Chapel but this should be located somewhere else, not in their area.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

She said residents expressed fear that once the proposed project would push through, it might contaminate their source of drinking water, which is located a few meters away from the proposed site.

“Residents in the area who have no access to the water district get their drinking water at Tuburan, which we consider as a part of Bulua’s history,” Velasco said. Tuburan is a water source at lower Zone 2 which residents said “just came out miraculously with clear water flowing endlessly.”

Velasco said Tuburan is a great source of drinking water for the residents in the area and even those residing in nearby villages.

“Mahubas na lang ang tubig sa Carmen, dili ang Tuburan,” she said.

Velasco added if the project would push through, it might also affect the environment and the health of the residents in the area.

As of present, at least one funeral parlor is operating near the proposed site but Velasco said it would be “closed down soon” because the lot where it is located is just “leased” and the lot owner didn’t renew its contract. The funeral parlor started operating in the area in 1996.

“Kung madayon ang St. Peter, that would be a permanent structure because they are buying the lot,” she said.

In April 2009, Velasco said the management of St. Peter conducted a public hearing on the proposed project, which was attended by only a few residents in the area. Velasco called it as a “failed public hearing” considering the number of attendees.

However, she said they were surprised when the barangay council approved the project in July 2009 through a resolution.

Velasco said they filed a petition with the barangay council and furnished copies to the office of Mayor Jaraula, the management of St. Peter and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Because of the petition, the barangay council recalled the approval of the project which Velasco said sent great joy to the residents. Director Sabdulla Abubacar of EMB also said he put on hold the company’s application for Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) pending the project’s social acceptability, which is one requirement for ECC.

However, Velasco said they got surprised, again, when the barangay council scheduled a supposed public hearing with the residents on January 20, which did not push through because according to her, “the barangay council instead met with the management of St. Peter.”

“We felt there is something fishy going on here. But we are really fighting this out to prevent Tuburan from being contaminated. We want a better future. There is more to life than St. Peter,” Velasco said.

The affected residents held a meeting on Sunday to come up with actions regarding the issue.

When Sun.Star called the office of St. Peter Chapel in Barangay Iponan, a guard said the owner of the establishment was out and would be available on Monday.

In a text message, Bulua barangay chair Al Legaspi said the project is not good since the barangay already has a lot of existing funeral parlors and the project is near Tuburan which they are planning to develop as a tourist spot.

However, he said the management of St. Peter requested for another public hearing, which they set on January 30, to update the residents on the status of the project.

He said St. Peter will now forego its plan of putting up cremation facilities.

“Daghan motambong ana nga public hearing para ipaabot ang ilang pagsupak sa proyekto,” Legaspi said.