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Friday, July 12, 2024

Public hearing on 24-hectare reclamation project held

Attended by more than 200 stakeholders, the public hearing on the Maasin City Reclamation Project (MCRP) held last August 8, 2022 was apparently successful.
Representatives of the project proponent, the Southern Leyte provincial government with support from the LGU of Maasin City, were confronted with many questions and position papers from NGOs, environmentalists, fishermen and fisherfolk who are directly affected by the reclamation project.
Other stakeholders and concerned citizens listened closely to the exchange of ideas and issues during the open forum.
An emotional poor fisherman who also gleans the reef (manginhas) asserted that for long years his family has been taking fish, shellfish, crustaceans and other sea foods from the honasan or the coral reef system. A woman reef gleaner also expressed difficulty in gleaning for fear of being arrested as they might encroach on the protected area in barangay Lib-og.
Former Maasin municipal councilor and Green Earth member Luz Abiera wished that what is God-given should not be destroyed. Amelia Mancera of G-Watch revealed how a coastal area in Palawan has provided millions in annual income and livelihood for residents which they earn from their tourism industry.
Dr. Rico Cruz, Ph.D., who worked as a consultant on environmental management both in the United States and the Philippines, reportedly made a significant revelation, he claimed that the filling materials used in the project might have high copper content and if so would be toxic to the project area, its vicinities and nearby mangroves.
Majority of those who oppose the project decried that it was implemented allegedly without complying with the required documents like the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and other clearances/permits from other concerned government agencies, and that the public hearing should have been conducted first before the project was implemented.
In support of the reclamation project, Engr. Marivic Fernandez-Jabines of CENRO Baybay City, acting as project consultant, explained to the public the technical aspects of the project. Among the highlights of her explanation is that the MCRP, “shall be constructed as an island located at the tidal flats… deliberately designed to allow good water circulation along the water channel.” Also, “a water channel will be provided and maintained wherein the seaward frontage line of the mangrove is approximately 40-50 meters away from the face of the containment wall of the reclamation boundary.” Fishermen will also be given access to navigation for their fishing activities.
In attendance also were Provincal Governor Damian Mercado, Vice-Governor Rosa Emilia Mercado, Mayor Nacional Mercado, Vice-Mayor Maloney Samaco and other local government officials.
Governor Mercado said: “Mangita mig paagi as leader, dili ko ka toleratena pasagdan naay opportunity sa paghatag ug maajong kaugmaon sa probinsya ug sa syudad”
“Dili ko musugot nga manginahasay nalang mo hangtod sa hangtod.” Mercado ended.
Meanwhile, a solomonic proposal came from one of the project proponents: that the services of neutral persons like marine biologists, environmental engineers and other experts from Siliman University or the University of San Carlos be availed of for the project’s further study.
Another participant also raised the question, why was the original plan of a stilt-bridged/bypass road not pursued. That such a project would not bury the giant coral reefs and thriving tidal flats in the area, and would still give the existing mangrove forests and its coastal ecology in the area adequate space to breath and survive.
The open forum was moderated by Armand Dupio of EMB Region-8 who asked for position papers from both the project proponents and those who oppose it.

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