Last week this publication released a story about a “swimming pool in a forest” which according to our source is owned by one of the elected officials of the town of San Vicente. The photo showed that it is indeed located inside a thick forested area in the said municipality, and is almost finished. The NGO group PNNI has called for a Cease and Desist Order for the said facility for not having proper environmental clearances for its operations.

There are three main baffling things surrounding this ‘swimming pool’.

First, it is certainly hard to believe that a project such as this, one that attracts tourist attention, went under the radar of the government agencies concerned. These government bodies were able conduct apprehensions of even relatively smaller players in environmental degradation, such as individuals who sell charcoal or who collect quarry materials for constructing their houses — how come a project of this size did not reach their noses? Is it because an influential person is involved?

Second, there are few things as disappointing as government agencies response to the issue. Indeed, the whole thing resurfaces a frustrating fact about the local authorities’ response on reported violations of environmental regulations in the province: oftentimes, they are more reactive rather than pro-active. PCSD’s response on the issue raised by PNNI,where the agency said they will be ‘conducting a validation of the report’, provides a telling glimpse of how things might run. Hint: slowly, and non-proactively.

Third, PNNI put it quite right: the people behind the project reeks of arrogance and severe disregard of the law for even thinking that they can skip applying for clearances.

The permitting and regulatory system in the province is supposed to screen down potentially ecologically-damaging projects like this pool, in order to avoid its irreversible effects to the natural environment. Unfortunately, it seems like there’s an alter-trend emerging now in the province — construct now, pay the fines later. The Palawan News strongly urge the concerned agencies to pro-actively do their part. The law must be implemented, with fairness, and at all times. Otherwise, should the public start thinking now that the government is indeed all empty rhetoric?

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