Family calls for realignment of Davao-Samal bridge project to spare coral reefs

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Family calls for realignment of Davao-Samal bridge project to spare coral reefs
This undated handout photo shows the rich marine life in Paradise Reef.
Paradise Island Beach Resort

MANILA, Philippines — A family whose properties will be affected by the construction of the Davao-Samal bridge is considering legal action in case the government ignores its continued appeal to move the project's landing site to protect the marine life in the area. 

The Rodriguez family might be forced to file a petition for the writ of kalikasan to stop the Davao City-Island Garden City of Samal bridge project, which will connect the island to mainland Mindanao through Davao City, if the government issues an Environmental Compliance Certificate for it.

A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy for persons or organizations whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated or threatened.

The Rodriguez family owns the Paradise Island Beach Resort and Costa Marine Beach Resort—collectively referred to as “Paradise Reef”—which were chosen as the bridge’s final landing site in Samal Island, threatening the rich marine life in the area.

"After exhausting all amicable means, it will certainly file a writ as a final option of last resort," said lawyer Julito Sarmiento, chief executive officer and founder of Climate Change Adaptation Resettlement.

An Ombudsman case and a possible suit for mandamus are also in the offing.

“We are exploring all avenues for an acceptable win-win solution. At present, we are in stage of exhausting administrative remedies prior to launching a judicial action,” he added.

The family has written letters to Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. It requested the intervention of the city council of Davao City to revisit the resolution endorsing the project since the landing site in Davao City is part of its own marine sanctuary. 

The family also launched an online signature campaign seeking to realign the bridge to save Paradise Reef.

Bridge project

According to a 2019 project description report submitted to the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, the land section of the bridge lies within a predominantly resort developed areas within the southern section of Barangay Caliclic and close to the border of the adjoining Barangay Limao from the side of Samal Island. The DPWH is the project proponent.

The alignment of the bridge project will be positioned between the Paradise Island Beach Resort and Costa Marina Beach Resort and will be near Mercado Subdivision, which are said to be the indirect impact areas in Samal Island.

The report said the bridge will enhance the economic activities in Davao City and the Island Garden City of Samal.

“The benefits of the project include a resilient and solid transportation, access to education, employment and business opportunities as well as other services the two cities can and will offer,” the report read.

“Through this proposed bridge, [Island Garden of City Samal] may even become one of the world-class tourist destinations in the long run,” it added.

The report also stated that demolition, excavation, pile driving and bridge structure construction may result in "changes in channel beds and impacts on fish and aquatic life resulting from demolition." 

To address the issue, the proponents said it will strictly implement Site Protection and Rehabilitation Program for soil erosion control measures and observe “best” practices in proper construction procedures.

‘Irreversible’ destruction

But the Rodriguez family stressed that the project will destroy Paradise Reef’s coral reefs and marine life ecosystem.

The study led by marine biologists Dr. Filipina Sotto and Dr. Cleto Nanola found that Paradise Island Beach Resort has rich benthic (on or near the seabed) communities composed of coral reefs, seagrass meadows and reef fish population. The assessment was commissioned by the Rodriguez family.

The marine scientists also found that the bridge’s current realignment will “irreversibly, irreparably and incalculably” destroy coral reefs in the area. They said that Hong Kong-based consultant Ove Arup “wrongly selected” the landing site for the bridge.

“Corals in the benthic communities are not just trees but the rainforests of the seas and oceans that protect, preserve and nurture entire marine ecosystems and provide health habitats for reef fish and other marine fauna and flora that in turn provide livelihood and food not only for fishing communities but entire human populations,” the study read.

“Definitely, the process of removal and replacement of benthic communities, including corals will cause direct damage, destruction, fragmentation and loss of aquatic habitats and ecology,” it added.

Other sites

The marine scientists conducted a study on the environmental impacts of the bridge project on three stations: El Paril Beach Resort, Bridgeport Damosa and Paradise Island Beach Resort.

They recommended that Bridgeport be selected as the landing site for the bridge as it was found to be the “least biologically productive area.”

In the event that Bridgeport is not economically or technically feasible as an alternative landing site, the Rodriguez family offered to donate the El Paril Beach Resort in Barangay Caliclic to the government as a compromise option. This alternative landing site is said to be shorter, cheaper and with “much less environmentally adverse impact alignment.”

DPWH Undersecretary Emil Sadain, however, told BusinessWorld in September that the alignment identified in the study was final.


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