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Monday, July 15, 2024

Celebrating small victories

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“What will it take for the government to permanently stop the activity before irreparable damage is done to Manila Bay?”

The cancellation of the Pasig River Expressway project by San Miguel tycoon Ramon Ang is a small victory for those environmentalists who put time and effort to oppose it.

But as we know, the fight to preserve what is left of our environment is a daunting and in many instances a losing effort.

Furthermore, the project itself has not been canceled by the government.

Someone else could still take over. This is because making money often takes precedence over keeping our mountains or maintaining our river systems pristine.

Take a look at what is happening to our United Nations Heritage site of Chocolate Hills in Bohol or right at our very noses, the continued sand mining in the waters off the province of Zambales.

Protected area or not, there is absolutely no respect to the status of Chocolate Hills as a UN Heritage Site.

There are others that are just too many to mention and with climate change and sea rise accelerating, we will soon have a country much smaller than its current size.

So, for environmental advocates, any small victory is worth the celebration.

The public of course, do not know the true reasons why PAREX was canceled, but is nevertheless good for Metro Manila’s environment.

The PAREX was originally intended as the unhampered East-West corridor but right from the start, there were problems with the project.

One was the freeway had to go thru the Pasig River, making the route very circuitous unlike other freeways that are usually designed to take a straight and the most direct route possible.

The other is how to design the freeway in such a way it will blend well with the existing structures along and beside the river and not become a monstrous eyesore.

In the final analysis, it is probably better that the project was canceled by the proponent himself. And perhaps the public has the NAIA I, 2, and 3 renovation and the Pasig River walkway project to thank.

Maybe Mr. Ramon Ang simply decided to concentrate on the P175 billion airport project and forget about the controversial road project.

But since an East-West corridor is still necessary, the problem now is where to construct the road if the DPWH is still thinking of constructing one and whether to do it at grade level or elevated.

And since the road will be passing mostly on private land, construction costs will sky rocket possibly tripling the cost.

This being the case, it is possible that the project will be permanently shelved.

But looking at all environmental protection issues such as the PAREX, the Bohol Chocolate Hills and the sand mining of the coast of Zambales in Manila Bay, environmental protection in this country leaves much to be desired. DENR, the principal agency that handles all environmental matters is supposed to protect our environment while at the same time is the same agency that allows mineral exploitation like open pit mining.

It is a contradictory in terms.

How can an agency protect the environment while at the same time allow its destruction.

Clearly, reform is badly needed.

The government must separate environmental protection and mineral exploitation in order to be consistent.

There also seems to be bureaucratic overlaps because in the case of the resort constructed in the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, the authority to construct the project was green lighted by the Barangay Captain which is clearly unusual.

In the sand mining in Manila Bay, the Regional Director of the DENR in Region 3 resigned several months ago because of this sand mining issue but the mining is still apparently going on. The question now is why is sand mining still going on?

What will it take for the government to permanently stop the activity before irreparable damage is done to Manila Bay?

All that this tells us is that the government is saying one thing but apparently doing another.

Like many other things that the government does, it starts something with a huge and well publicized launching complete with all the placards and media coverage after which, everything will be forgotten quietly as if nothing has happened.

This needs to change.

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