THE proposed Seafront City reclamation project in Consolacion, northern Cebu is again facing another snag.

This after an official of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) disclosed that Malacañang has forwarded to them the sentiments of various sectors in Consolacion town who have expressed opposition to the proposed reclamation project in Barangay Tayud.

Lawyer Joseph John Literal, assistant general manager for PRA’s Reclamation and Regulation Office, confirmed the matter during a virtual multisectoral forum on reclamation in Minglanilla and Consolacion organized by non-government groups Oceana and the Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) on Monday, December 6, 2021.

He said there are processes to be followed in their verification of the complaint sent to their office.

But Literal failed to elaborate as to the nature of the complaint and where this came from.

Literal was tasked to discussed the reclamation application process during the online forum that lasted almost four hours.

During the virtual forum, Dr. Filipina Sotto, a scientist and project leader of the FBS-Environment and Community Research And Development Services, raised a concern on the “reclamation frenzy” now happening in Cebu.

Sotto said not much emphasis has been given on how these projects will affect the fisherfolk and other concerned sectors.

“How about studies, people who will complain? What if they (the proponents) already have the clearance of PRA, these different agencies? How about if there are also groups, for example, that will complain, how will you deal with this?” Sotto asked Literal.

Literal replied: “In compliance with due process, when we receive these documents, we also furnish that to the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) because they are, under the bureaucracy, they are the experts in environment laws and then sa LGU kung sino ang affected party. Kailangan po kasi namin marinig lahat ng side. We will act accordingly, but we also have a process. Otherwise, kami naman ang ma expose for not following the process.” As part of their verification process, Literal said, they will also ask the project proponents to comment on the concerns raised by the affected fisherfolk.

Though he was invited to participate, Consolacion Mayor Joannes Alegado did not make it to the online forum.

Alegado, however, sent a representative, Mark Eran, to participate in the forum.

In response, Eran told participants that he will ask for copies of their Powerpoint presentations so he can also discuss these with their group.

Engineer Mary Ann Bueno of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Section of the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) in Central Visayas said sectors that will be affected by the Tayud reclamation project can always contest its implementation in the absence of proper consultation by its proponents.

Public scoping

The conduct of consultations and public hearings is required under public scoping.

“If ever important stakeholders were not invited, the fisherfolk, shipyard owners, they can contest to really require the proponent to conduct again public scoping,” Bueno added.

The conduct of public scoping is an early stage in the EIA Process wherein the project proponent provides an overview of the project, present issues and concerns, and other relevant information on the scope of the project.

During public scoping, all interested parties, organizations and agencies are encouraged to provide inputs and comments on the project in compliance with Presidential Decree 1586 or the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Law.

Bueno said public scoping is needed before the proponents can proceed with the conduct of technical scoping that is done to ensure that the proposed project will not have a negative impact on the environment as well as identify mitigating measures.

EIA is needed prior to the issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

In the case of the Consolacion reclamation project, Bueno said, its proponents — the Municipality of Consolacion and La Consolacion Seafront Development Corp. — already forwarded to their central office their application for an ECC and they were advised in January 2021 to conduct public scoping.

To date, the project proponents have not been issued a notice to proceed with the conduct of a technical scoping.

Bueno was asked during the forum what will happen if affected sectors were not consulted.

“The proponent has a checklist to follow. If the requirement for public scoping is not addressed, hindi po mag move to next step which is the technical scoping,” she added.

SunStar Cebu tried to get Alegado’s side on the issue, but calls and text messages to his cellular phone remained unanswered. (JKV, PR)