WE do not know how those fighting for a change in the route or alignment of the Samal Island-Davao Bridge (SIDC) Project are taking this pronouncement by the Chair of the Davao City Sangguniang Panlungsod Environment and Natural Resources Committee that it is already unlikely that their recommendation can still be done.
The chair, our friend and former media colleague Tek Ocampo, was short of saying it is already “too late for the day.” Yes, because in the SP body’s latest hearing on the matter last week Councilor Ocampo said the issues which centered more prominently on the destruction of the environment, are already properly addressed and appropriate mitigation measures are already planned to ensure that whatever damage done as an aftermath of the bridge construction this will be restituted.
However, it looks like the leading face in the opposition to the current alignment, the Ecoteneo pro-environment coalition, is not quite convinced that the mitigating measures planned by the contractor and apparently already with the approval of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are not enough to restore the immediate environment at the bridge route to the current one.
That is, even if done accordingly, it will take time or even not at all, for the destroyed underwater habitat of marine resources to its present state even after years of doing so. Knowing the people behind the Ecoteneo, we have no reason not to believe them. For certain that once the current state of the underwater habitat for marine resources is disturbed or totally damaged the likelihood is that government regulators on environment-related concerns will already be too excited of the bridge that they will not anymore think of other concerns but the newly completed project and the potentials it could bring to the island city and big businesses salivating for opportunity in the IGaCos.
The environmentalists and other interest groups manifesting their opposition to the alignment not the bridge itself will slowly be having their causes drained to the canal of oblivion. The only recourse for them is to maintain the decibel of their noise.
Of course we can understand very well if other interest groups badly affected by the approved route like the Paradise Island Tourist resort and other similar businesses will eventually opt to take their possible last resort. They may run to the Supreme Court to petition for the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan if only for the government to reconsider a change in the bridge route.
Will the highest court oblige? This is one question that is synonymous to delay even in just resolving whether to issue the Writ or not. And while the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) which is the implementing agency of the project will definitely be compliant with whatever mandate emanating from the court in relation to the petition it cannot easily change the perception of the public that it is the agency’s lack of tranparency that is causing the delay. The same expectant public may turn its ire on the petitioners believing that they are anti-development.
We are happy though with the plan of the Ocampo committee to propose to the Sanggunian the creation of some kind of a grievance body with which the affected interest groups can officially submit their grievances to be deliberated upon more objectively. This could well be the venue for a “win-win” solution to the presently conflicted and even forthcoming issues on the SIDC project.
For now we can only hope for the best and pray that those who have divergent perspective on the project be guided by the hard truth that “real development is when there are more people who will benefit from a project than those who stand to suffer from it.”
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