EXPLAINER: Can reclamation in Consolacion be stopped? President can modify or overrule PRA. Alegados push project, tell opposers to leave town.

·6 min read

PROTESTS of shipyard workers and fisherfolk against the reclamation project in Consolacion, Cebu, 19.6 kilometers north of Cebu City, have lately landed on media news spaces, raising the issue of absence of consultation and lost jobs and fishing ground.

A protest rally of reportedly 3,000 people last September wanted the public to know that the project will (a) shut down shipyards at the town's coast and thus deprive thousands of people of their livelihood and (b) remove a rich fishing ground for Consolacion fishers. Owners of six shipyards said they were informed about the Seafront City Project only last January and they and other stakeholders have not been properly consulted.

Last August 9, Vice Mayor Teresa "Nene" Alegado said the protests do not reflect "the genuine sentiment" of the people of Consolacion, as against the interest of a few persons, specifically the shipyard owners. In an interview with broadcaster Elias O. Baquero of dyRC radio, Alegado said "we defend and promote the interest" of the majority ("kinabag-an") of the people, not just a few business persons some of whom, she said, are not even from their town.

VM Nene Alegado, in an October 19 follow-up interview, told dyRC's Baquero that the town mayor, her son Dr. Joannes "Joyjoy" Alegado, and herself are pushing the project for the basic reason of keeping with the pace of development towards the town and the next generation of the people in Consolacion.

[1] PLAN FOR SEAFRONT CITY. The project seeks to reclaim a total of 235,80 hectares in Barangay Tayud, Consolacion under a "public partnership project" (PPP) with developer La Consolacion Development Corp. (LCSDC) "at no expense" to the Municipal Government. It will have two reclamation types, separated by a 50-meter channel: Lot 1: a 160.56-hectare island; Lot 2: foreshore 75.24-hectare land.

The planned Smart City Estate will have "commercial, tourist, entrepreneur, residential and institutional components, including government buildings, auditoriums, schools, churches, civil centers" -- the works.

[2] WHERE'S THE PROJECT NOW. VM Nene Alegado told Baquero they already have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and are working on the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and other papers before they'd go back to the PRA.

The opposers need not be alarmed that the MOU means it's already "go" for the project. Under the PRA administrative order (#2019-4), which implements the president's EO #74 on reclamation projects, the MOU merely details the mandatory requirements and the LGU's intent to comply with them. Still to follow from PRA are, among others, the notice of full compliance (NOFC) and the permit to break ground.

Last Monday (October 26), Mayor Joyjoy declared in his state-of-town address (Sota) his administration would go ahead with the reclamation despite protests from various groups, saying it would help not just the town but the rest of Cebu. He said that in tandem with the Seafront project, a container port, called the New Cebu International Container Port (CICP), will be built starting next January also in Tayud.

[3] OPPOSERS TOLD TO LEAVE TOWN. "Not right immediately," Mayor Joyjoy Alegado in his Sota told the groups that oppose the municipality's developments, only until they can find other places to relocate.

Which raises the question, whose duty is it to look for relocation sites, particularly for the shipyards: the town government or the shipyard owners themselves?

There's also an issue of fact to settle: how many shipyards are still in Tayud, three or four, five, or 12?

VM Nene Alegado in the Baquero interview disclosed that only three or four of the shipyards have remained. Marina, through Administrator Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, disclosed Monday he wrote to Mayor Joyjoy that 12 shipyards would be displaced by the Seafront project, affecting customers that are private commercial ships and government vessels. In the lawsuit filed July 1 against the mayor and the head of the Consolacion business permit and licensing office, five shipyard owners signed up as complainants.

[4] COURT'S STATUS QUO ORDER. The court has officially prohibited the disturbance of business operations in the five shipyards that sued.

Mandaue RTC Branch 83 Judge Allan Francisco Garcia issued last July 1 a status quo order, directing that the municipality shall not "disturb existing operations" of the shipyards "until the main case is resolved." Mayor Joyjoy was quoted in a media report thus, "I will not close the shipyards until December 31, 2021." The main case is to compel Consolacion government to issue a full-year permit, instead of just the six-month permit granted to the five shipyards. What if the main case won't be resolved at yearend?

[5] PRA DECIDES, DUTERTE CAN MODIFY, REVERSE. Under President Rodrigo Duterte's Executive Order #74 dated February 1, 2019, the power of the president over reclamation projects is delegated to the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) governing board. But the president retains the power to modify, amend or nullify the action of the PRA governing board, which authority shall not be "diminished."

And PRA is "mandated" to seek the "advisory opinions" of National Economic Development Authority (Neda), to see to it the reclamation is "consistent to regional and national development planning"; Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), for compliance with environment laws and regulations and "sustainability"; and Department of Finance (DOF), on "economic and fiscal viability." Here, Ligas may raise to DOF his doubt, expressed last October 1, that the developer -- registered only last October 13, 2019 with a capital of P10 million -- has the resources to reclaim 235 hectares of land.

[6] ELECTION MAY KILL PROJECT. VM Nene Alegado is running for mayor again, after the one-term shift from the same post to break the term limit. Her son Mayor Joyjoy is the second nominee of Ako Bisaya party-list.

She expressed hope to win even as those who oppose the reclamation must be resolved to muster resources and grit to defeat her and her fellow candidates in May 2022.

The Consolacion election is one political exercise on which the fate of a hugely important project might depend.

[7] WHAT 'LACION PEOPLE WANT have actually little to do in deciding for or against the project.

The requirements demand that the reclamation jibe with the national or regional plan, don't have adverse impact on the environment, and is financially viable. While community support helps, popular vote for it is not a must.

Reclamation is not a plebiscite question in the next election although, with a community seemingly split on the issue, Nene Alegado's victory expectedly will be deemed a vote for the project. But if Alegado loses, that may kill the project if the new administration won't push it. And her win does not necessarily assure its approval if the project flunks the tough screening.

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