Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Nalzaro: Is Mayor Alegado’s mindset ‘development first, conservation later’?


The local government units (LGUs) of Dumaguete City and the municipality of Consolacion, Cebu are facing the same problem. And this is about their respective multi-billion proposed reclamation projects. Dumaguete City, in partnership with a private developer, E.M. Cuerpo Inc., is planning to develop a 174-hectare reclamation project called “Smart City.” Consolacion, also in partnership with a private developer, La Consolacion Seafront Development Corp., is planning to develop a 235.8-hectare reclamation project in Barangay Tayud dubbed as “Seafront City,” a mixed-use commercial and residential complex. Both projects are faced with strong opposition from various sectors, including the church, environmentalists, academe, professionals, shipyard operators and fisherfolk.

While the two LGUs have the same agenda, their local chief executives have adopted different approaches to how to handle the issue to break the impasse. In Dumaguete City, Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo has taken a more diplomatic and consultative approach. Consolacion Mayor Joaness “Joyjoy” Alegado, on the other hand, is very much aggressive in his desire to have the project done, practically ignoring the concerns of the affected sectors and even wanting a short-cut of the process.

Just last week, the Dumaguete City Council granted Mayor Remollo the authority to sign the memorandum of understanding (MUO) with the private developer to kick-start the project. But Mayor Remollo held the signing in abeyance, saying he will still conduct further consultations so that his “constituents would be enlightened about the benefits of the project.”

He said, “Some people are misled by some sectors of society. I will be conducting a public forum online to explain the project to the people. I need to address the concerns because of the many misleading information that have been peddled.”

He added that “the MOU is not a public private partnership contract but a document that will support the city’s application for a reclamation project to proper authorities.”

While we appreciate the strategy of Remollo, Alegado is adopting the opposite move. He wants his multi-billion project done like lightning, ignoring the concerns of the affected sectors. The shipyard operators, for one, have already paid their business permits good for one year. But just last June, they were hastily told to vacate the place which has been their home for several decades, serving the marine industry in the Visayas and Mindanao. This prompted them to seek court remedy.

Alegado also ignored the concerns of the fisherfolk and residents in Tayud. He even claimed that there are no more fisherfolks living in the area. I would like to advise Alegado not to treat these people like rags and not just dump them in the corner as they are also human beings. He should be sensitive to the plight and fate of these people.

Last week, an online forum was held between environmental experts and supporters of reclamation projects. Both sides presented their arguments as to how reclamation projects are beneficial or harmful to communities where they are going to be implemented.

What caught the attention of the majority of the participants was that, one of the pro-reclamation project speakers made the argument “development first, conservation later” as a way of pushing through with these projects. The speaker said the damage to flora and fauna cannot be totally avoided but minimized at best in the future. The speaker justified the costs by saying the reclamation projects are worth it in the long run. I hope this is not the mindset of those undertaking reclamation projects like Mayor Alegado who wants his “dream project” done immediately as if he owned the area.

During the same forum, an environmental expert shared her findings on the geographical features of Consolacion. There are 71 species of corals in the area. There are fish larvae and eggs that can be found in the seas of Consolacion. The overall state of mangroves in the province is good. The study analyzed the mangroves in Bagacay, Paknaan, Basak and Tugbungan.

Naturally, as reclamation projects involve dumping of backfill materials such as gravel and sand in the area, there will be aquatic resources that will be lost. Mayor Alegado only talked about the positive sides and benefits of his ambitious project but has never spoken a single word about the havoc and devastation it would create to the environment. He did not even engage in a thorough dialogue with the affected sectors. Yes, there was a “scoping” (mapping out) conducted last January but not all stakeholders were consulted and given the chance to air their concerns. Why in a hurry, mayor?

Also, once the project will commence, massive quarry operations will take place in the town’s mountain barangays. Where will the suppliers of “anapog” (limestone) get their supplies for backfilling? Of course, in the town’s mountain barangays. The activity will also denude our mountains and the town is a flood-prone area. Is Mayor Alegado willing to be placed in the firing line once something disastrous happens in his town because of his ambitious project?


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