“Here’s an excerpt from the letter of the Save Zambales Kalikasan Movement.”
Last Saturday, I wrote about an environmental stand-off happening right now in Zambales. Because of the urgency of the matter, I quote excerpts from a letter sent yesterday by Ms. Heidi Fernandez, Executive Director of the Save Zambales Kalikasan Movement, to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. She writes:
“I am writing on behalf of the concerned citizens of San Narciso and San Felipe, Zambales in relation to a private jetty port and causeway project being implemented by AGN Trading. Among the activities being opposed by the local community, AGN Trading is compacting dredged materials from the Alusiis River and turning the said river into an access road which will lead to a private jetty port. The jetty port was intended to transport by sea and export lahar and blacksand to Singapore and China.
To dramatize the protest by using their bodies as human shields to prevent big backhoes from further destruction of our most precious Alusiis River, 30 fisherfolks have camped out beside the river Alusiis since 11 January 2022. Thankfully, a lot of media outfits have heard their cry for help and featured their story and struggles. Other non-government organizations, the Dominican nuns and priests for Justice and Peace and concerned citizens have been providing donations and moral support to the protesters. Instead of heeding their plea, the local government units of San Narciso town led by Mayor William Lim, and San Felipe town led by Mayor Leo John Farrales have set a venue for the AGN Trading to offer jobs for fisherfolks who will be displaced by the project. Fisherfolks and members of our group have walked out on both meetings set by the Mayors.
CENRO official Roger Encarnation deceived us, the Save Zambales Kalikasan Movement, when he set an arbitration between AGN Trading and our group in his office in Olongapo City on 7th January 2022. Upon reaching his Olongapo City office, we were told that the meeting was postponed because all CENRO officials were on field work. However, to our big dismay, we found out that at 8AM of that same day, CENRO Chief of Enforcement and Monitoring Edward Sarnedilla accompanied the camp of AGN Trading, Mayor Farrales, brgy. Captain Marlita Santos and the San Felipe police incursed on the site of the planned but yet unauthorized Jetty Port/Causeway project and brought with them two backhoes, barbed wires and bamboo poles to fence the site of the planned jetty port. Fisherfolks and resort owners barricaded the group of Mr. Sarnedilla and the AGN Trading and prevented them from putting up the fences and dredging the shores. Thankfully, no one was injured in that commotion.
Coupled with the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project, the opposition of the community stems from AGN’s failure to present any of the requisite permits and licenses from the pertinent government agencies before implementing the same. It must be emphasized that the project is being pushed through with undue haste despite public objection and without the necessary approvals from the government. At the outset, it is respectfully submitted that the concern for the jetty port is that it is a component or accessory to the primary operations of a mining company and that it will be used to ship out the minerals (lahar and blacksand) extracted from the province.
Unquestionably, AGN Trading needs to show that it has, among other requirements, secured: (a) an Environmental Compliance Certificate covering the development of the causeway/access road, the jetty port, the stockpile area, and other related facilities; (b) a DENR foreshore lease agreement to operate on public lands; (c) Permit to Construct a Port from the Philippine Ports Authority; (d) PPA Special Permit to Operate a Port Facility; (e) Dredging Clearance from the DPWH; (f) Approval from the Department of Tourism; (g) Authority/Endorsement from the Philippine Reclamation Authority; and (h) pertinent clearances from the local government units . . .
Under the Environmental Impact Statement System, no person, partnership, or corporation shall undertake or operate any such declared environmentally critical project or area without first securing an Environmental Compliance Certificate issued by the President or his duly authorized representative.
However, in this case, no ECCs were properly secured for each component of the project, no EIA study/report was conducted, no public consultations took place, and no permits/licenses from the concerned government agencies were secured. Yet, the project implementation pushed through and continues on . . .
This is impunity happening under your leadership. On that note, kindly sit down with us for a dialogue soonest to put an end to this travesty. We have faith in your office and in you as an alternate of the President of the Republic of the Philippines in ensuring pivotal environmental protection to save people’s lives. The fisherfolks protecting River Alusiis with their bodies are very tired but very hopeful that there is a peaceful solution to this travesty . . . Please help us save Alusiis river, our fishing grounds in the West Philippine sea, our lives and our local economy.”
I personally know Secretary Cimatu to be a person committed to the protection of the environment. He will respond positively to these just demands of the people of Zambales.
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