A notice of violation (NOV) on the project was issued by the DENR's Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), leading the quarrying operations to be halted. (File photo)

The Coron municipal government defended its Coron Bay Reclamation Project against criticisms raised by the local group Sagip Coron Palawan, claiming that it went through proper consultations and permitting processes.

In a letter to the group dated March 14, Sangguniang Bayan member Philip Andrew Astor, head of the Sangguniang Bayan’s environment committee, denied the group’s allegations that the project did not go through proper consultations with local residents.

“Prior to the commencement of the 50-hectare reclamation project, covering the areas of Barangays 2, 3, and 5, necessary requirements were complied with by the provincial government,” Astor, who heads the town council’s environment committee, said.

Astor also claimed that the project was endorsed for implementation “by the administration” as early as 2007.

“A project profile of the Coron Bay Reclamation Project (CBRP) was submitted to this office that underwent careful and thorough review before said project was endorsed for implementation in 2007 by the administration during that time,” he said.

Astor advised Sagip Coron to direct their concerns to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

Protesters respond
Meanwhile, Sagip Coron Palawan blasted the municipal government for ignoring its proposal to hold dialogues about the reclamation project.

“Hindi namin maintindihan kung bakit kailangang ipagkait nila sa taong-bayan ang pagkakataon upang malinawan ng lahat kung ano talaga ang plano ng gobyerno sa ginagawang Coron Bay Reclamation dahil nakikita naman natin na malaki na ang damage sa kalikasan ng project na ito,” Bob Magallanes of Sagip Coron said.

Magallanes also pointed out that even during the time of former Palawan governor Joel T. Reyes, when the project was started, there were no local consultations.

The group had been raising concerns about the effect of the reclamation project on the environment integrity of Coron.

“If the project has gone through a proper process, why [was] there no public consultation made by JTR’s group until JCA’s time?” he asked.

The group cited DENR Administrative Order No. 2003-30, which states that apart from environmental impact assessments, a project needs to be consulted with the wider public.

Magallanes challenged the local government to produce proof that there were public consultations held at the inception of the project.

“We were requesting that specific information, but we have not received any, hence we requested them to organize a public dialogue in order to confer transparency,” he said.

“The LGU should have provided us with the transcripts of these consultations and the attendance sheets as many residents were not aware of any such consultations,” he added.

Magallanes also vowed to hold more protest rallies to question the project.

“Even if the municipal government refused to organize a public dialogue, this will not hinder our group to continue with our campaign to stop these destructive projects and do more IEC (information, education, and communication) work. Many Coronians are now aware of the key issues,” he added.