An indigenous people’s group on Wednesday slammed the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) for issuing a permit to a foreign-owned hybrid coconut plantation project in the southern town of Rizal.
In a letter dated September 11, the Samahan Supton Adat it Kaguranggurangan Tagna it Palawan (SAKTIP) demanded the PCSD to retract the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) Clearance it issued recently to the foreign-owned company Lionheart GPPAC Farms Corporation (LGFC), claiming that the company had committed violations in clearing their ancestral forests.
According to SAKTIP, the LGFC’s hybrid coconut plantation project in natural forest will threaten the forest biodiversity in Barangay Ransang, a community of more or less 2,000 IP families.
“[It] will cover secondary forest and there is a need to comprehensively assess the impact of coconut plantations to forest areas. A natural resource valuation with a clearly-established map would be necessary,” said SAKTIP.
SAKTIP is backed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) and Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives (IDEAS).
PCSD Staff Jovic Fabello said the application was approved during the 236th PCSD regular meeting on August 31. He added that the LGFC had satisfied “all of the requirements” set under the PCSD Administrative Order 6 or the SEP Clearance System.
“During the deliberation, the NGO representative filed an opposition. But the final judgment of the majority of Council members is have the proponent’s SEP clearance application approved, since they have complied with the requirements – ecological viability, integrated approach, and social acceptability,” he said.
While Fabello agreed the project site is considered timberland, he said it falls under multiple use zone of the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN), the SEP Act’s graded system of protection and development control for Palawan.
“There were areas that previously entered the no-go core zone, so we excluded them. The acceptable zone, where plantations like this are allowed, is multiple use,” he said.
The SEP clearance issuance came following the PCSD Adjudication Board August 2 hearing of the case filed last March by the PCSDS against the LGFC “for proceeding with the project without securing the requisites of the SEP Clearance system,” said Fabello.
“We found out that they violated it, so we imposed a P50,000-penalty. They promised to comply with the requirements, and before the council meeting, the ECAN Board of Rizal submitted its endorsement for the project,” he added.