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LGU ‘feigning ignorance’ for destroyed trees, corals concerning: group

AN ENVIRONMENTAL group took to social media to accuse the city government of “feigning ignorance” about the destroyed trees and corals as part of the civil works for the Samal Island- Davao Connector (SIDC) project.

“Statements made by some officials to the effect that  ‘the LGU can do nothing in the face of a national project’  is deeply concerning,” the Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) said in a May 17 Facebook post.

The SDM wrote a letter addressed to the Office of the City Mayor on March 27, with an attached letter to the Vice Mayor (both cc’d: city councilors) or delivered personally and through email sounding the alarm of the cutting of trees and destruction of corals.

“There seems to be a feigning of ignorance is unconscionable, both for the trees on land, and the centennial corals that Chinese contractors have been destroying,” it said.

SDM added they have sent another letter to the committee on environment chair, Councilor Temujin “Tek” Ocampo, but have yet to receive a reply since April.

“Aren’t these 223 trees covered by the Davao City Heritage Trees Protection Ordinance? And how might this affect our local Green Space requirement according to our Comprehensive Land Use Plan & Zoning Ordinance of 2018-2028 in terms of securing greenery in the city?”  SDM said in the letter to the VMO and councilors.

Ocampo, during the Aprubado sa Konseho on May 14, said he received no communication from DENR about the cutting down of the trees. 

A total of 199 trees in Lanang, Davao City were cut on May 9 to make way for the SIDC project. A notice of permit granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-CENRO) XI on March 21, was posted in the area. 

Wala, I have to ask Cenro Davao og naa ba, they don’t need to ask for permission to inform us because national project kasi, naa silay proseso ani but then again kay naa man tay ordinansa, aprubahan siguro,” Ocampo said.

The councilor added if violations are found, the agency responsible behind will have to “answer for it.” 

Ang problema gyud, we cannot just stop national projects, and not unless the city government opposes it. When we say oppose it, tanang konsehal mosupak niana,” he said.

He also told reporters that the corals, “can be rehabilitated in less than a year” as per DENR, citing the case in Mabini, Davao de Oro.

To recall, a project engineer from the DPWH-Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) reported to the SP that 200 trees would be planted for every tree cut down. Ocampo said they would monitor their compliance.

Meanwhile, SDM in the letter, said the drilling activities of the SIDC project (including wharf/pier construction in Samal) have led to massive destruction of hard corals.

The group said they have sent correspondence to SP to present them with documentation of this destruction and ask the status of their endorsement of the project in present design and execution.

The concerns raised by the group include the no prior consultation with the Bureau of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and plans for the affected fisherfolks, coordination with the city planning office on a traffic management plan, and conflict between the Brgy. Hizon Marine Protected Area zoned in CLUP 2018-2028, among others. 

The group also noted in the letter there were false claims in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report relative to the marine productivity and status of Brgy. Hizon MPA, as studies by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2018 and 2019 show the barangay ranks no.1 in terms of marine resources, fish stocks, and biodiversity in the city.

It was also stated, that there is no multipartite monitoring team even as the project commenced with their drilling activities offshore in October 2022.   

As per SDM, these concerns were not answered by the joint committee hearings conducted by the Sanguniang Panglungsod in October and November 2022.


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