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Envi groups: Surface SIDC hearing committee report or we will file writ of kalikasan

ENVIRONMENTAL groups demand that the City Council present the joint committee report on the Samal Island-Davao Connector (SIDC) project hearings to the public.

In a press conference on May 21, Lawyer Romeo Cabarde Jr., from Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy (APILA) and Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) member,  said the committee report may shed the real score and the position of the City Council on the project.

Cabarde referred to the joint committee hearing conducted in October and November 2022. 

“We demand the committee on environment, chaired by Councilor Tek Ocampo, to release the committee report, as soon as possible,” Cabarde said.

The committee report will open the discussion in the plenary session of the council on whether they greenlighted the construction despite the environmental concerns.

He added this would shed light on the claim that the resolution was passed without objection and  whether “it only allows feasibility study or was it applicable to the exact location of the bridge.”

“We demand our local government to do their job as stated in the Local Government Code, to ensure the welfare of the residents and constituents,” Cabarde said.

SDM will look into the possibility of filing a writ of kalikasan against SIDC contractors and agencies behind it. 

Under the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, the writ of kalikasan is “an extraordinary remedy covering environmental damage of such magnitude that will prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces,” to strengthen environmental rights protection and provide effective resolution of a case that involves a violation of a constitutional right to a healthful and balanced ecology.

He added if the negotiation with the local government to realign the bridge fails, the next step may be filing legal cases before the court. 

Cabarde said they may also file charges against DENR for permitting the tree-cutting, DPWH, Smal Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), contractor China Bridge and Road Corporation (CBRC), and the Samal and Davao City LGU.

To recall, Ocampo, during the Aprubado sa Konseho on May 14, said he received no communication from DENR about the cutting down of 199 trees in Lanang, on May 9, and added he would ask the CENRO on the matter.

The councilor further said if violations are found, the agency responsible behind have to “answer for it,” however he emphasized national projects cannot be halted “not unless the city government opposes it.”

DPWH-Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) reported to the SP in April that 200 trees would be planted to replace every tree cut down and Ocampo vowed to monitor their compliance.

SDM position

Carmela Santos, Ecoteneo director and SDM secretariat, said the “tree-cutting activities of the SIDC are cause for grave concern and much dismay.”

SDM wanted the City Council to clarify whether the tree-cutting observed the Heritage Tree Ordinance (City Ordinance Number 0784-21 Series of 2021) and apply for a permit from the Office of the Mayor.

Heritage Tree Ordinance protects mature trees that provide shade, cooling, and reduce temperature particularly the centennial trees in the city. 

“In the recent rampant and indiscriminate tree-cutting activities of the Samal Island-Davao City Connector  Project, the direction of the so-called infra development runs counter and opposite that of sustainable development,” Santos said citing SDM’s six-page position paper.

SDM also called for the “suspension of all tree-cutting activities and land clearing until genuine consultation and permitting processes with the LGU are undertaken by the Project.”

Santos also reechoed the call of SDM to conduct a review of all plans and aspects including the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) of the Project for careful study and activate a multi-stakeholder monitoring team that is representative of the city’s stakeholders.

They also urged the LGU to declare a “climate emergency” and issue a moratorium on “all major projects in the city that negatively impact protected and ecologically sensitive areas.”

Not against development

SDM clarified it is not against development provided the project will seek alternative win-win solutions. The group reiterated that the push of realignment remains firm, urging the authority to revisit the Japan study of 2016.

SDM calls the public to support the petition Realign Samal Bridge: Spare the Reefs/Marine life in Davao Gulf which started in October 2022. 

The 3.98-meter, four-lane bridge is a P23-billion loan agreement between China and the Philippine government set to be completed in 2027.

In the fight to realign the bridge, Mark Peñalver, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) executive director, urged the city government not to turn a blind eye and “to do their job,” as mandated by the local government code. 

Under Section 16 of the Local Government Code, LGUs are given the mandate to exert their powers which are appropriate “for the promotion of the general welfare and enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology.”

“The ball is in the hands of the Committee, if he’s really thinking about the welfare of the people, might as well consider fast-tracking addressing the issues and concerns,” Peñalver said. 

Photo: Bing Gonzales


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