THE Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the petition for the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan or a Temporary Protective Order (Tepo) to stop the implementation of the P18.99-billion Davao Sasa Port Modernization (DSPM).
DSPM is a private-public partnership (PPP) project in Mindanao led by the PPP Center and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).
The 23-page en banc decision was based on the petition’s lack of cause of action or lack of merit.
“The grounds for dismissal was based on the petitioners’ failure to present all the requisites to justify the issuance of a writ of continuing mandamus, lack of evidences for an actual environmental damage of such magnitude to justify the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan and absence of basis to apply the precautionary principle for purposes of issuing a Tepo,” read the High Court decision dated May 16.
Lawyer Harry Roque, legal counsel for petitioners, in a follow-up interview with Sun.Star Davao said even as the High Court dismissed the petition, they are hopeful that under the new administration the controversial project will be reviewed and all the local stakeholders will be consulted.
“I think the project will not push through (with issues still unresolved),” he said.
A Tepo once issued is effective until lifted by the court. The Writ of Kalikasan, is a legal remedy for persons whose right to “a balanced and healthful ecology” is violated.
This right is enshrined in Article II Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade committed that all the issues and concerns on the DSPM will be solved within the year.
He also made sure the project will be implemented under the goal of spurring economic growth in Mindanao especially in the shipping and transportation industry.
“We will look into it (DSPM) especially on the suggested/indicative cost of the project, let me just look into the details of it first, the difference between P4 billion to P17 or P18 billion, I do not want to jump into conclusions. This project calls for a study, if the plan will really contribute and trigger economic growth in this part of the country,” Tugade said in an earlier report.
“If Sasa port is good for Davao and Mindanao, if it is transparent, if it will add to the development (economy), we will try to make a decision in a period of one year,” he added.
Also, Philippine Port Authority (PPA) general manager Jay Daniel Santiago, in a report, said the government will evaluate the project’s capacity and cost.
“We have to evaluate that on how we will implement it. Either we adopt whatever is on the table or implement it based on the projected volume and projected cost. We will try to determine if we can still implement it at a more reasonable level,” Santiago said.
Roque underscored that the project, apart from being “overpriced” is in violation of the Environmental Code, Local Government Code and Clean Water Act.
In December 2015, the City Council of Davao issued a resolution stopping the DSPM’s bidding because of “the irregular procedure as well as the various questions raised against the Sasa Port Modernization project,” which was allegedly “being bid out without prior consultation and expressed approval of the local government as provided for by the Local Government Code.”
Davao City Councilor Diosdado Mahipus Sr. said that the PPP Center and DOTC must conduct first consultation side by side by the local government calling the publics’ attention.
Worse traffic congestion is also being eyed, if the project will push through if the project will be implemented without establishing an alternative bypass road.
Representing the Consumer Movement of Davao, former Davao City Councilor Pilar Braga said that their opposition is based on the rights of the consumer to healthy and clean environment, to correct information and fair trade.
“We should look into this matter very profoundly because it will affect us the consumers because all the fees, prices, charges brought about this project will all passed to us,” Braga added.
An estimated of over 1,000 families will be affected and be relocated once the project will start, this, according to Benjie Badal of Kadamay Urban Poor Network.
Standing firm on the side of the businessmen in the city, Bonifacio Tan, president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII), said that the overpriced project at P18.99 billion is not viable and will make the port charges expensive by 80 percent, and can be changed and increased every three years.
The pre-qualified bidders of the DSPM as disclosed on PPP Center website were Asian Terminals Inc. - DP World FZE Consortium, Bollore Africa Logistics, International Container Terminal Services Inc., and San Miguel Holdings Corp.-APM Terminals Management (Singapore) Pte Ltd. Consortium with Hyundai Development Company and Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Co. Ltd. as contractors.
The PPP Center last January confirmed that Portek International Pte Ltd., also prequalified bidder for the DSPM, pulled out from the bidding process.
DSPM is a project now under procurement with a structure of Build-Transfer-and-Operate within 30 years.