THE Negros Environmental Watch Coalition slams the provincial board after it held a public hearing on the proposed ordinance that prescribes the monitoring and supervision fee, extraction fee, and transport permits for dredged spoils, and other waste materials source from heavily silted river channels in the province.
Based on a statement issued by the group, they called the hearing held last Tuesday, May 26, as a “sham and an insult” to the intelligence of the Negrenses.
The group is currently questioning the legality and transparency of the hearing, which was held during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Why was the hearing conducted during the pandemic crisis? Were the people informed about it? Conducting a public hearing without informing the public and amid the [Covid-19] crisis should be null and void,” the group said.
The coalition said they strongly oppose the dredging ordinance, pointing out while it can improve general land drainage, it cannot prevent rivers from flooding due to the large volume of water from upstream during heavy rains.
The group added that dredging will result in the extraction of minerals such as sand, and gravel, or black sand-magnetite, and others. They claimed such activities will impact marine organisms negatively, through entrainment, and habitat degradation, and noise, the remobilization of contaminants, sedimentation, and increases in suspended sediment concentration.
They pointed out dredging also releases toxic chemicals, increasing water turbidity, and littering harmful metals throughout the food chain.
“Equally important, the livelihood of the people around these dredging areas is at stake, and the destruction of natural defenses from strong waves, and storm surge during typhoons would weaken,” the group said.
The group further stated the public needs to be informed about the drawbacks of dredging, adding the provincial board should have asked the people to participate in the hearing on the ordinance.
“Why the rush for this ordinance? Who is going to benefit from this?” they questioned.