KALIKASAN-PNE expresses opposition on the construction of two high rise condominiums in Subic forest

The Arroyo government seems to be an eternal legacy of tendering benevolence over foreign companies and multinational corporations, hoping to attract more foreign investment but at the expense of jeopardizing its people and the environment. This inclination is nothing new to environmental advocates who strongly express dismay and opposition to another environmental crime committed under Arroyo administration-the construction of two high rise condominiums inside Subic forest.

The $20 million project by Korean company Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Ltd, which is 90 percent complete, first of all should never have materialized because the two residential buildings are within the Subic Watershed Forest Reserve, an area that is clearly protected under current environmental laws. The project will also result to dislocation of Aeta people living in the area.

Even under such apparent restriction, Hanjin managed to get all the papers ready including an environmental compliance certificate (ECC). Kalikasan-PNE sees three culprits responsible for such a fraudulent scheme of circumventing existing environmental laws for their own interests and those foriegn investors in which they serve.

First, the Arroyo administration’s concept of economic development focused on the outright sale of our national patrimony and sovereignty, engaging in economic transactions deemed unfair for the country, and the continuous neglect of the people’s concerns in exchange for foreign capital and investment. To strongly support the Hanjin project in Subic forest, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 701 directing “all heads of departments, bureaus, offices, agencies, and the instrumentality of the government to support the power infrastructure requirements and the investment of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction-Philippines Inc. in Subic and Mindanao.”

Second, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is merely echoing the policies of its chief executive. While its mandate was to oversee activities that might endanger the environment and has juridicition all over the country, it seems that in Subic, the DENR has given up that responsibility and that right by entering into a memorandum of agreement granting the SBMA self – regulatory powers on environmental matters including the issuance of ECCs. The agreement should be scrapped as such kind defeats the purpose of the DENR and erodes whatever standards they have in environmental compliance.

Lastly, SBMA’s ecology center was the one which approved the plan for the condo project despite the area being off-limits to constructions. The center defends itself of conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA) before approving the plan. However, having an EIS doesn’t change the fact that it is a protected area. The general rule would be that if it’s off-limits as prescribed by law, then there would be no need for conducting the rigorous process of EIS.

These legal maneuverings of the Arroyo administration show that it will do all in its power to protect and serve the interest of private and foreign corporations at the expense of the environment and our people. Hanjin ecologically destructive project in Subic Forest is a glaring proof of this.

Reference:
CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
National Coordinator
Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)

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