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Hearings, public consultation sought on destructive Dumaguete reclamation plan

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Hearings, public consultation sought on destructive Dumaguete reclamation plan
Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Antonio B. Remollo presents the reclamation project on July 24.
Dumaguete City Government

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 10:48 a.m.) — The National Academy of Science and Technology on Thursday cautioned against rushing into a massive reclamation project in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental that scientists and environmental advocates fear will devastate coastal communities and ecosystems.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros has meanwhile asked the Senate to set hearings on the planned reclamation project.

In its statement, NAST said that the National Integrated Protected Area System Act makes is government policy to secure "the perpetual existence of all native plants and animals" through a comprehensive system of integrated protected areas.

It said that Dumaguete City "has historically committed to protect its marine ecosystems" and has established four Marine Protected Areas off the villages of Bantayan, Lo-oc, Mangnao and Banilad. The planned reclamation project will "negatively impact" the MPAs "directly or indirectly", NAST said, saying also that the effects of the proposed project even on neighboring islands must be considered.

It said project proponents should release the technical, legal and due diligence reviews done and hold public consultations on the project and on the documents supporting it.

NAST, aside from recognizing and encouraging achievements in science and technology, also has an advisory function. "It is the body that the governemnt turns to for disinterested advice in science and technology," it says on its website.

Senate hearings sought

Hontiveros filed Resolution 807 on Tuesday, calling for a probe into the proposed 174-hectare reclamation project in Dumaguete City. She cited the "far-reaching implications of the project and its precedent-setting impacts."

She said the Senate must look into the project "and its avowed benefits against its costs, as well as to pursue potential reforms of our environmental laws and our laws against graft and corruption, procurement, security and defense, public-private partnership, anti-dummy, and other relevant laws."

The Senate can hold hearings in aid of legislation and in the exercise of its oversight powers.

The city council of Dumaguete issued a resolution authorizing the signing of the joint venture agreement with contractor E.M. Cuerpo for the project despite strong opposition from scientists, environmental groups and the Church.

'Enormous and irreversible' damage feared

The Philippine Association of Marine Science said the project’s damage to the environment “will be enormous and irreversible” as it will bury very large areas of productive coral reefs and seagrass meadows.

RELATED: Lesser known and unappreciated seagrass struggles for attention, conservation

Critics of the project said it will also affect the region’s rich biodiversity, which include giant clams, whale sharks, marine turtles and the blue whale—the largest animal in the world.

Marine scientists also voiced concerns on the project’s impact on food security and livelihood of fisherfolk.

They added that the project may worsen flooding in the coastal barangays of Dumaguete as it will likely impede the flow of water from the rivers and streams of Mount Talinis.

DUMAGUETE CITY RECLAMATION RISA HONTIVEROS
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