Groups slam public hearing on river, coastal projects

THE EB Magalona Small Fisherfolks Alliance (Ebmasfa), Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), Green Alert Network (GAN)-Negros Island and Group of Environmental Socialists (Goes) have slammed the recent public hearing on the impending coastal and river projects in the northern Negros Occidental locality.

The alliance composed of various organizations from five coastal barangays of EB Magalona, in a statement, said it has called the attention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environment Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) before the start of the activity.

It had submitted a letter of complaint regarding the "public scooping" for the proposed river restoration and coastal rehabilitation project in the municipality.

"As affected coastal communities, we were never informed nor consulted on this important matter," Ebmasfa chairperson Glenda Garcia said.

On February 26, the last public hearing was conducted on the projects seen to address the flooding problem in EB Magalona.

Following this, the declogging and desiltation of the mouths of the town's three major rivers may start this year.

The project will be undertaken by First Terradev Corporation and Geo Alto after a go signal was given by the DENR, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Transportation (DOTr).

It is a public-private partnership where the government made the plans and will direct the project, Eric Tagle, president and chief executive officer of First Terradev had said.

Goes, in the same statement, said Fr. Ernie Larida, representing GAN, questioned the transparency of the project, including the background of the proponent and where the materials will be supplied.

The group said Larida expressed his concerns over the protection of the municipal waters as a natural resource of the communities and habitat to marine life.

He is dismayed at the "unprofessional and unethical behaviors shown by the politicians who tried to shun the organizations asking for transparency during the public hearing," it added.

Expressing alarm, Goes said the presenters kept mentioning that the project was already approved by the National Government.

The group believed that the EMB should hold the issuance of Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC), claiming that there are issues and concerns yet no clarification was made during the public hearing.

"This project should not push through, and there has to be another public hearing that is inclusive," it said, adding that "Goes will be watchful of this ongoing dredging proposal since we are already made aware of what is really happening in the area."

For its part, PRRM-Negros said the planned dredging business violates the local ordinance that bans the dredging activities and black sand mining.

Also, it is questioning the data presented during the public hearing.

"The data came from the proponents themselves. There are questions on the figures' reliability and concerns on how the project might favor only the proponents' interests," it said.

"There is no assurance on how the investors can ensure that the dredging of black sand will not violate the safety of the local waters, especially because the local government unit does not have the capacity to research and monitor such processes in the operation," the statement from Goes stated.

SunStar Bacolod has yet to get the reaction of the Municipal Government and project proponents on the matter. The paper remains open for their side.

Though, Mayor Marvin Malacon earlier said the declogging and desiltation project will be done at the mouth of rivers Imbang, Madalaga and Malogo.

Malacon said they are now waiting for the release of the ECC from the DENR.

"[It's] possible that by the second quarter of the year, the project will be started," he said.

Malacon said the timeline of the project will depend on the capacity of the ship where the materials from the dredging will be transferred and shipped to reclamation projects.

It will also depend on the weather conditions that may stall the operations especially during the rainy season, he added.


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