by Joe Mancera
We have already informed the public, especially the project proponent, about the legal ramifications of the causeway project in barangay Combado in Maasin City. We hereby reiterate that the CNC is not the appropriate document for such project, as a high official of DENR Region 8 had confided to a member of BARUG Maasin sometime ago.
Why not the CNC? Precisely because the causeway’s massive adverse effect on the marine ecosystem and biodiversity in the area needs a very careful, detailed and comprehensive study. What is imperative here is the grant of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), if warranted, by DENR-EMB Region 8. But again, it is quite certain that an ECC could never be granted. Why? Because the area which is now being buried by toxic filling materials is quite healthy and highly productive; the end portion has buried a series of tidal fronts, healthy corals and coral colonies, seaweeds and immense variety of marine living organisms which make up for a balance ecosystem and biodiversity. Ask the experts, and the marine biologists and environmental engineers shall reveal to you how massive the destruction the causeway has brought to the area, and to us Maasinhons who love the natural environment.
Why an ECC could not be granted? Precisely because it was advertised on PhilGEPS that the amount of P6.5 million was allocated for the feasibility study of an 80 to 100 hectares of reclamation from barangay Combado westward to Lib-og, Badiang and onwards. There were no bidders for months because they know there is absolute prohibition by law, notably by the NIPAS law. Maasin City was chosen as a signatory to the convenant of protection, conservation and management of the Danajon Double Barrier Reef, precisely because of the city’s healthy marine ecosystem which is considered vital to Danajon’s reef. Thus, the causeway project shows that Maasin City has reneged on its pledge to the covenant.
Recent developments showed us Maasinhons how the causeway project had brought violence to the barangays in the city with the onset of the habagat or southwest monsoon. The sea level went higher than the usual and the waves more violent as they pummeled our shores. It was reported that about twenty (20) residential houses were destroyed in barangay Asuncion (Pacu). We don’t know yet of destruction or inundation in the other lower barangays of Isagani (Pugaling), Ibarra, Maria Clara and Pasay. But it’s certain, when nature strikes back, man can do nothing. It’s a matter of nature’s transfer of violence.
Super typhoon Yolanda and the massive destruction of properties and thousands of lives lost are still fresh in our memory. Stories were told about how mangroves in the coastal areas broke down Yolanda’s fury in the shorelines. And now we are here destroying mangroves with the causeway project. Mangroves are natural wave breakers, and tidal fronts, tidal flats, seaweeds, corals and coral colonies are always the first to break violent waves and currents when typhoons come. And the say we are not destroying the mangroves.
You have destroyed them, those you buried at the entrance to the causeway project. Maasin has a very healthy mangrove forest; anything that obstructs the symbiotic relationship of mangroves and the sea spells their gradual destruction. Mangroves need the direct touch of the sea, its waves and currents, even as they feed and shelter immense variety of fish, shellfish, crustaceans and unseen marine life.
This concept of a CNC must be a misnomer, a ploy to circumvent the law by people who are supposed to protect the environment. The CNC posted at the entrance to the causeway clearly announces that IT IS NOT A PERMIT. And that all needed documents from concerned agencies should be complied with. Yet no other documents were secured, like permit from the BFAR, the ECC from the DENR, permit from the FARMC, permit from the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), etc. Moreover the CNC expressly prohibits any reclamation. Yet the causeway is already a preliminary activity for the 80-100 hectare reclamation project.
It’s really ironic, and perhaps insulting, that the BFAR provincial office was not consulted before the causeway project got started. It’s office is located in the coastal area of barangay Combado.
I think the good people from the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) could provide very seriously concerned Maasinhons with adequate legal help, with the prompt backup from the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas in Cebu City.