DENR probes anomaly in city-backed illegal road project

The project is supposedly a farm-to-market road but had already cut trees in the forest of Sitio Maranat II, Bacungan, despite the absence of relevant permits from appropriate government agencies. (Map photo by Google Maps)

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Palawan is investigating the alleged involvement of the city government in a controversial road project in Barangay Bacungan that has no environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and other required government permits.

Local DENR chief Felizardo Cayatoc said Wednesday that the project, supposedly a farm-to-market road, had already cut trees in the forest of Sitio Maranat II, Bacungan, despite the absence of relevant permits from appropriate government agencies.

“May mga putol na kahoy talaga, may construction ng road, at ito ay walang permit [galing] sa DENR. Even ECC wala,” he said.

Cayatoc said the road project was endorsed by officials of the barangay headed by village chief Gualberto Manaeg through an approved resolution.

He said the heavy equipment that were used to execute the earthwork operations appeared to be owned by the city government.

“Sabi nila farm-to-market road. Wala namang mga tao doon, paano ito magiging farm-to-market road?” he asked.

The investigation, he said, will be done by a multi-sectoral team that had been formed earlier to address the issue.

Cayatoc also said they are validating reports that a private property developer, identified as Premiere Horizon Alliance Corporation (PHA), was behind the road project.

“Bina-validate namin at tinatrabaho sa ngayon na makuha namin ang information para matignan yung issue na yan,” he said.

PHA is an investment holding company that is reportedly developing a 512-hectare property in Bacungan, dubbed the West Palawan Premiere (WPP) project.

The WPP is envisioned by PHA to be an enclave that would bring together a mountainside resort, beach retreats, and themed clubs to become a prime tourist destination in the city and province.

Documents have already been submitted to the investigating team of the DENR. Cayatoc said the result of the investigation will come out next week.

“May nai-furnish ng documents at sa ngayon ay kino-kompleto na lang ang reports,” he said. He added they will conduct an administrative adjudication hearing to determine who are responsible.

“Maaaring ang company, maaaring ang barangay, bakit pinayagan siya?” he said, refusing to provide more details until an investigation has been properly conducted.

In defense of their decision to endorse the road project, Bacungan barangay Councilor Alfredo Fabro, chairman of the Committee on Environment, explained that Horizon approached them and offered to shoulder the cost of the road project.

He said the company’s offer to pay for all expenses was a big help to their barangay that also dreams to make it big in the city’s tourism industry.

“Lumapit yung Horizon sa amin, para sila ang gagastos. Malaki ng tulong ito at ito ay pabor sa barangay,” Fabro said.

He said that when they endorsed the road project, it was with belief that the PHA will process all necessary business and environment permits.

“Nagulat na lang kami na may report sa PNNI (Palawan NGO Network, Inc.) at DENR na illegal daw yung pag-gawa ng kalsada. Labas na kami dyan, dapat e-comply muna nila di ba, tulad ng ECC? Hindi pa pala na–comply yung permits, at ang binalikan ay ang barangay,” he said.

The barangay councilor stated that if there is anyone to blame, it should not be the officials of Bacungan but the PHA that failed to be compliant with environmental regulations and laws.

“Ang company ang may kasalanan pero ang lumalabas ngayon kami. Masakit din sa amin kasi daw ay may connivance ang barangay at nabayaran kami ng kompanya,” he said, reiterating that their conscience is clear and that they endorsed the project in good faith.

“Malinis ang konsensya namin, wala kaming ginawang masama at wala kaming tinanggap,” Fabro added.

Palawan News first reported about the controversies surrounding the project on December 8, 2017, after Atty. Robert Chan of the Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI) accused the city government of illegally constructing it.

He said they have taken pictures of a city government-owned backhoe being used in the road construction.

“It has already broken through the Nagtabon watershed and runs over the concrete water tank of residents of Sitio Nagtabon, making the water silted,” he said.




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