Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda during the Green SONA in Puerto Princesa City. (Photo courtesy of Green Convergence Philippines)
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Lack of proper study on the environmental impacts of the proposed creation of three Palawan provinces can turn the Philippines’ “last frontier into a lost frontier,” Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda said during the State of the Nature Assessment 2019 (Green SONA) in Puerto Princesa.

Anda, who is the executive director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), said Tuesday in the Green SONA that this neglect of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and provincial government officials will incur huge negative outcomes on the environment.

“Ang argument natin ay nakabatay doon sa fact na walang pag-aaral na mandate dapat ng PCSD na gumawa ng environmental research. PCSD, with all due respect, is not complying with its mandate and all the officials — kasi kailangan pinag-aralan ‘yan nila. Because the division has not been studied, it is too much of a risk, it is a big risk,” said Anda.

In an updated interview with Anda on Friday, she said it is in the absence of a “cost-benefit analysis and feasibility study on the environmental impact” induced by the division of Palawan, which could pave way to a great danger that the Philippines’ last ecological frontier become a lost frontier.

Anda said the “burden of proof” that the creation of provinces will not bring adverse impacts on the environment lies heavily on the “proponents of the division,” Anda said.

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“May tinatawag sa environment na precautionary principle. Prinsipyo siya na kapag wala kang pag-aaral dapat maingat tayo kasi last frontier tayo at nasa batas na kailangan ng pag-aaral. So kung walang pag-aaral ‘yong panukalang paghahati, mapanganib sa atin kasi hindi natin alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa atin. Pangalawa, titingnan mo ‘yong environmental governance threats ngayon,” said Anda.

Anda said this lack of proper study strips Palaweños of their right for a healthy and balanced ecology.

Anda in her presentation stated that Palawan faces environmental threats on forest destruction such as logging, and forest land conversion to plantations; depletion of marine resources like mangrove destruction, overfishing and illegal fishing; mining and quarrying; and roads and large infrastructure development.

She said Palawan also faces other environmental threats due to oil exploration such as the utilization of coal and other fossil fuels for development of energy or power; tourism development that includes island selling, land grabbing, illegal logging; wildlife hunting and smuggling; and domestic and industrial pollution, caused by poor waste management.

“Iyong binanggit kong listahan kanina ng threats, kahit sabihin pa natin na nag-umpisa ‘yon prior to the current administration, the fact remains that aggravated na. Marami nang plantation, ang oil palm from 4,000 aabot na ng 8,000 hectares. Ang environmental laws hindi talaga sinusunod, hinuhuli lang ‘yong kayang hulihin, ‘yong mga mahihirap.” said Anda.

Anda said the kind of governance in Palawan, which neglected conducting the proper cost-benefit analysis and feasibility study on the environmental impact induced by the division of Palawan, only shows that the law is already not being implemented.

“Kung hahatiin mo ‘yong Palawan at ganiyan ‘yong pamamalakad mo at pamamahala, mapanganib siya sa kapaligiran,” said Anda.

She reiterated, the changing of Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) is also rampant in the province and only reflects the governance it has.

Anda also pointed that airports being built in every Palawan municipality did not even conform to the proper environmental guidelines.

“In the absence of  those studies, what evokes any certainty or guarantee that the last ecological frontier will not be further put at risk? Iyong obligasyon para ipakita na walang masamang mangyayari ay sa kanila. Dapat sila mag-aral,” Anda said Friday.


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