OWNERS of Samal’s famous Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort and Costa Marina Beach Resort cry harassment as Chinese contractors of the controversial Samal Island- Davao City Connector (SIDC) Project illegally entered their properties with armed men in tow at 10:30 o’clock a.m. today. Project proponent Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has recently announced the ongoing completion of the project’s Detailed Engineering Design (DED) awarded to the China Road and Bridge Corporation. The DED requires the drilling of boreholes on the Samal beach resorts and the treasured and biologically rich Paradise Reef nestled in front of them.
The Chinese contractors were accompanied by several men who identified themselves as DPWH’s Joey Tulaylay and representatives from the IGaCoS City Mayor’s Office, CENRO Panabo City, and DPWH Central Office. The group illegally entered unannounced onboard a speedboat reportedly owned by a well-known politician. The surprise visitors requested audience with the resort owner and access to the foreshore areas to drill boreholes, claiming they were public properties.
The armed men who looked menacing with their long firearms were requested to leave the property or deposit their firearms at the entrance to avoid alarming tourists and guests in Davao’s most popular family resort.
Permits and clearances for borehole drilling were sought from the Chinese contractors. None were produced. The resort manager explained that the foreshore areas were covered by subsisting foreshore lease agreements with the government. After a long discussion, the group of Chinese contractors and government personnel left in separate directions.
The resort owners Rodriguez-Lucas Family supports the SIDC Project. But they have called for its realignment and in fact have offered to donate to DPWH its Lumos beach property as an alternative landing site in Samal Island to save the Paradise Reef, which the family has preserved for almost a century. The family questions the lack of prior consultation. The present alignment was chosen in a workshop in Manila without the participation of local landowners and stakeholders.
The Environmental Compliance Certificate for the SIDC Project was issued without a prior Protected Area Management Board clearance. Contrary to DPWH’s claim that the Samal landing site is outside a protected area, the entire Samal Island remains a protected area. It was established as a Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve under Proclamation No. 2152, S. 1981—an initial component of the National Integrated Protected Areas System. The law requires an act of Congress to disestablish a protected
area or modify its boundary. The DPWH has not come forward with any such evidence insofar as Samal Island is concerned.
A broad mutli-sectoral alliance of concerned residents from Samal Island and Davao City, together with students, media practitioners, scuba divers, environmental advocates and non-governmental organizations such as Ecoteneo, Sustainable Davao Moment and Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability, have joined the family in actively campaigning for the realignment of SIDC Project to save Paradise Reef.
Well-renowned marine biologists, Dr. Filipina Sotto, Dr. Ting Nanola, Dr. John Lacson and Dr. Joey Gatus have conducted a comprehensive marine ecosystem assessment study at the site. They have confirmed the existence of Paradise Reef as the last remaining rich natural coral reef in Samal Island. They concluded that the Paradise Reef will be irreparably destroyed by the SIDC Project based on its current alignment.
Discussions have been ongoing with the National Government, including a recent meeting between the family and the DPWH Secretary Manuel M. Bonoan as arranged by Davao del Norte Governor Edwin I. Jubahib. DPWH Secretary Bonoan listened intently to the serious environmental concerns raised by the family. He urged their immediate resolution with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) before the SIDC Project can proceed. The illegal and unannounced entry inside the Samal beach resorts by the Chinese contractors and personnel from the DPWH and DENR and accompanied by armed men seriously defies and undermines the current good faith talks between the family and DPWH Secretary Bonoan.
In the meantime, trespassing, coercion, and other criminal charges are being mulled against the resorts’ unwelcome guests and their armed contingents.
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