Thursday, October 28, 2021

Nalzaro: Consolacion reclamation: ‘White elephant’ in the offing?


THE shipyard operators in Tayud, Consolacion town have been granted a temporary legal relief in their cause in opposing the proposed reclamation project in the area by their local government unit (LGU). This, after the court ordered the continuance of their business operations in the area until the main case for certiorari shall have been decided by the court. The shipyard operators—Philippine Rigid Construction Corp., Fortune Shipworks Inc., Nagasaki Shipyard Inc., PKS Shipping Co. and Uni-Orient Pearl Ventures Inc.—filed a petition at the Mandaue City Regional Trial Court (RTC) asking for a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) against the LGU headed by Mayor Joannes Alegado and the town’s business permit section and licensing office chief, Judith Pepito.

“Both parties agreed to maintain the status quo prior to the pending controversy, that is, for the petitioners to continue their business operations in the area until the main case for certiorari shall have been decided by the Court. Consequently, the present application for the issuance of a 20-day TRO and WPI is deemed withdrawn,” RTC Branch 83 Presiding Judge Allan Francisco Garciano said in his two-page order.

The petitioners went to court after the Consolacion LGU gave them only six months to operate, which expired last June 30, 2021 despite paying for their business permit for the whole year because of the proposed reclamation project. The shipyard operators can continue to operate sans business permit until the reclamation project will commence.

But Mayor Alegado said the shipyard owners cannot compel the LGU to issue them a business permit because they have not complied with requirements that were asked from them. One of the requirements is for the shipyard owners to produce a tenurial instrument (lease agreement) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). However, this is not a basic requirement and not explicitly stated in the ordinance. But the LGU can ask for more requirements. The tenurial requirement would reflect the ownership of the land. Well, Mayor Alegado is making the shipyard operators’ lives more miserable so they will be forced to stop their operations for his ambitious multimillion-peso reclamation project.

I have already written about this issue several months ago that the Consolacion LGU is planning to construct a Seafront Reclamation Project in the area through a public-private partnership under La Consolacion Seafront Development Corp., to draw more investors to put up their investments in the town. This 230-hectare mixed-use development features commercial and institutional zones as well as an area for tourism port facilities.

Consolacion and Liloan are considered the next big thing in the Cebu property market as development already starts to flock northward in the metropolis.

Reclamation projects can be beneficial if we want new establishments, such as businesses, to arise from a land area. However, these should not be pursued if they would harm low-income families in the long run. A case study in Barangay Tayud shows that 25 percent of the 25,000 people who lived there work in the shipyard industry. Most of the residents are fisherfolk. In Sitio Bagacay, there are residents who rely on fishing and the proponents have no concrete plans on how to address the concerns of these people. Don’t tell me that they will just be thrown away like rags? Mayor Alegado just simply told the shipyard operators to relocate themselves anywhere in the Visayas or Mindanao. As simple as that, and these operators contributed to the town’s economy and employment? Besides, there are various concerns that should be addressed and these concerns are compelling enough to say that the reclamation project must not be pursued.

The project proponents should consider the situation of the Tayud Fishersfolks Urban Poor Association who cried that the reclamation project would displace them. The project will definitely affect the shipyard operations that would lead to the job termination of some 302 employees and 539 contractors’ employees.

Beyond the economic concerns, the effect of closing down the shipyards also involves national security concerns. This is because ships from the Philippine Navy would lose an area for maintenance work. That area is also the gateway of vessels going in and out of Cebu ports.

Are the benefits of land reclamation worth the environmental impact? Reclaimed lands are also to blame for the rise of the water level on the bay, which causes massive flooding and storm surges. They badly affect not just the lives of the residents, but also may shut down local economic activities particularly those in low-lying areas. It can also harm aquatic resources, the environment and heritage and historical sites.

In his Manila Times column, July 30, 2014 issue entitled “Reclamation: Pros and Cons,” architect Felino A. Palafox Jr., a well-known urban planner, said: “One cannot resort to reclamation because it is the most convenient solution toward a lack of urban space and new urban land for real estate development when there are still potential areas that can be developed elsewhere in the metropolis. Reclamation should only be considered as the last resort.”

Doesn’t the town have enough urban areas where it can expand its economic development? And how sure is Mayor Alegado that there will be investors who will be interested in his seafront development once completed? Look at the South Road Properties (SRP) in Cebu City? It is more ideal for investments as it is strategically located within the city with complete infrastructure. But until now, it remains a white elephant. Is this Consolacion reclamation, a white elephant in the offing?


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