Following the backlash launched by netizens against the proposed ‘underwater resort’ in Coron, Palawan, some environmentalists have reiterated their opposition in a similarly themed project in Turtle Bay, Puerto Princesa where an ‘Ocean Park’ is supposedly due for construction. The reiteration of opposition also came amidst recent reports that the project’s developer is applying for the renewal of its Environmental Compliance Certificate.
Diana Limjoco, one of those who led a petition against the project, said that the proposed construction will destroy marine habitats. “…It will destroy a natural habitat for otters, fisheries…that bay is natural hatchery. It will ruin the ecosystem of that bay. I am not anti-development at all, I am anti-unsustainable development, this development is unsustainable,” she said.
Limjoco also cited a City Ordinance in 1992 declaring Turtle Bay and Binunsalian Bay as a “marine sanctuary”. The ordinance defines “marine sanctuary” as “that portion of the municipal waters and its immediate marine environs where fish and other marine inhabitants are protected from any maritime activity, including, but not limited to exploitation and/or utilization, except by sustenance/marginal fishermen.”
“I would like people from Mangingisda, Luzviminda to contact me, and NGOs that would like to have livelihood programs, help me to create a livelihood program for that bay,” Limjoco added.
Limjoco’s sentiment is supported by the Environmental Legal Assistance Center or ELAC.
“Alamin natin ang social issues d’yan, suriin, pag-aralan at pagtulungan natin. Ang City Government, PCSD, DENR, the barangays, the proponent and the community there. Let’s work together to determine what could be the best tourism development. ‘Wag tayong mahawa sa mga artificial structure na isinusubo sa atin,” said said Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda, ELAC’s Executive Director. “We have to stand by our own natural uniqueness,” she added.
Based on reports, the proponent Seven Seas and its local partner are applying for the renewal of their ECC which expired last year. The developers were able to acquire an SEP Clearance in October 2014, a requisite before an ECC can be granted.
“Kasi pumasa ito sa mga requirements ng PCSD. Una nasa tamang sona naman ito, nasa multiple uses zone. So allowed s’ya na ilagay ang isang proyekto na gaya nito sa lugar,” PCSDS Spokesperson John Vincent Fabello explained. Fabello clarified, however, that he is not sure if the proponent will go “back to zero” in terms of complying with all the permit requirements.
“I don’t know the process about the ECC but as far as the PCSD SEP clearance is concerned, it still holds,” Fabello said.
The SEP clearance from PCSD is issued based on terms and conditions such as the prohibition of introducing exotic species to the area, and guarantee that the project will not cause adverse environmental impact and pose nuisance to public health and safety, as determined by the PCSDS.
Meanwhile, petitioners against the project have gathered more than 12K signature online thru http://save-turtlebay-palawan.blogspot.com/ .
The project’s proponents have yet to issue a statement or comment regarding the matter after the issue was brought back to the public’s attention.