Nalzaro: Bishop Palma should also oppose the Consolacion reclamation project

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IN A report in this paper yesterday, the Archdiocese of Cebu expressed solidarity with the Diocese of Dumaguete City in its fight against the realization of the 174- hectare reclamation project initiated by the local government unit in partnership with a developer that some marine experts describe as a “monumental eco-disaster.” Last Saturday, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma issued a statement of support to the Diocese of Dumaguete, emphasizing that developments should adhere to the general welfare of the people first. “I re-echo the sentiments of the same sectors that we are not against development as it is, but there are parameters that we have to consider and work within, too,” Bishop Palma said.

He added that “development should have a human face, one that adheres to and primarily attends to the general welfare of the people and foremost before anything else.”

Dubbed as “Smart City,” the proposed reclamation project by the Dumaguete City government in partnership with the developer, E.M Cuerpo Inc., is evisioned to be a mixed-use commercial complex and residential area with business hubs, malls, condominiums, hospitals, seaport and a docking port for yacht club. The Dumaguete City Council already gave Mayor Felipe Remollo authority to sign a joint venture agreement (JVA) with the developer.

Well, it’s good that the church had showed concern for the environment and the plight of those affected sectors in the reclamation project. But I would like to offer a suggestion to His Eminence Bishop Palma that before he shows concern to other areas, he should show the same concern to the plight of his own “flock” here under the Cebu Archdiocese. And I am referring to the similar proposed reclamation project in Barangay Tayud, Consolacion, Cebu. It is the same issue.

The local government unit of Consolacion, in public partnership with La Consolacion Seafront Development Corp. (LCSDC), the developer, plans to develop a 234.8-hectare reclamation project in Barangay Tayud, where the present shipyard is.

Dubbed as Seafront City, the proposed reclamation project is also envisioned to be a mixed-use commercial complex like that of Dumaguete City project. Until this time, Consolacion Mayor Joanes “Joyjoy” Alegado has never disclosed the incorporators of LCSDC and its track record on real estate development. It remains a mystery. Some quarters suspect that the “unknown developer” is a family-owned corporation.

Some experts in real estate development foresee that this multibillion-peso project will generate employment of between 50,000 to 60,000 and augment the town’s current revenue of P60 million per year. Kaha? (You think?) Will investors be willing to invest there when there will be reclamation projects in Lapu-Lapu City and Cordova, which are more strategically located as they are near the airport and seaport of Cebu City? The South Road Properties (SRP) of Cebu City remains a “white elephant.”

Shipyard operators and affected residents, especially the fisherfolk are up in arms against this reclamation project. The shipyard, which has been existing for several decades, is servicing the marine industry in the Visayas and Mindanao. The operators filed a petition before the court by asking a temporary restraining order and injunction.

Despite the lack of consultation, Alegado is determined to push the project. The Philippine Coastwise Shipping Association (PCSA), a group of shipping operators based in Cebu, is strongly opposed to the project, saying it will have a negative impact on the future of Cebu’s shipping industry and will further add to the burden of shippers that are currently facing heavy losses amid this pandemic.

PCSA chairman Lucio Lim of Lite Shipping Corp. said they already sent their letter of opposition to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the project to be “outrightly denied.” They also plan to seek the intercession of the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and President Rodrigo Duterte on this matter. “Reclamation, when used in the guise of development, should be carefully studied, taking into account the heavy burden and consequences it will cause to existing use of the proposed project,” thus said part of the association’s letter to DENR, as secured by SunStar Cebu’s business section report. The Regional Development Council also expressed reservations on the project, saying it should be carefully studied and a thorough check made of the background and track record of the developer.

The Roman Catholic Church has responded to the challenge raised on environmental issues by stressing the need for every individual and even the nation to play their part. The important points that the Church makes include the beliefs that creation has value because it reveals something about God the creator. I hope that Bishop Palma will make the same stand in the Consolacion reclamation project like what he is doing for the Dumaguete City project. Amen.

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