We are publishing this Letter to the Editor from regional executive director Henry A. Adornado of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) MIMAROPA as a response to the article “Pala’wan IPs call on DENR to issue ECC to coffee farm project in Rizal” published on December 18, 2019, by Palawan News.
December 27, 2019
Ms. Joy Tabuada
Palawan News Online
Dear Ms. Tabuada:
This refers to the article titled “Pala’wan IPs call on DENR to issue ECC to coffee farm project in Rizal,” which was written by Ms. Aira Genesa and published on your website on December 18, 2019.
The article was about Campong It Mapangarapan It Palawano (CAMPAL)’s appeal to the DENR to endorse their coffee farming agro-forestry project for the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) by the Environmental Management Bureau.
We would like to set the record straight on the statements made by IP mandatory representative (IPMR) Silico Valdeztamon in the report:
“Ang hiling lang namin ay endorsement, bakit parang wala naman silang ginagawa? Nine months na pero wala pa silang sagot, bakit ganoon?” he asked.
“Ang project namin hindi pagmi-mina, quarry o pamumutol ng kahoy kundi magtatanim pa nga kami, kahalintulad ng national greening program ng DENR pero bakit parang ayaw nila kaming tulungan kung saan tiyak na makakatulong kami sa kalikasan pati sa aming pamilya. Kapag mina o quarry ang bilis nilang tumugon, kung walang irregularity sa kanila hindi dapat ganon.”
We vehemently deny such baseless allegation and we wish to rightfully inform the public on the status of CAMPAL’s agro-forestry project as regards their application for a project endorsement which serves as basis for the issuance of an ECC.
The following information is culled from agreements reached and documented by the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL) Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), the sole policy-making and decision-making body of MMPL, pursuant to the provisions of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 as amended by Republic Act 11038 or the ENIPAS Act of 2018.
1. The proposed Agroforestry Coffee Plantation Development was an initiative formalized through a tripartite memorandum by and between CAMPAL through its President, Mr. Celso Taum, SOC Resources, Inc., and the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP), on January 18, 2016.
2. The area of the proposed project measures 4,292.3 hectares, is covered by CAMPAL’s Certificate of Ancestral Domain Management Claim (CADC) No. RO4-CADC-100, and is within Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL).
3. The project was presented by the proponent in several meetings of the PAMB Executive Committee, for evaluation before issuance of endorsement or disapproval of the project.
4. On February 22, 2018, the PAMB Executive Committee, through Resolution No. 2018-02a, denied the application of CAMPAL-CADC for agro-forestry coffee plantation development due to the following reasons:
a. More than 90% (3,640 hectares) of the area falls within the core zone based on the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) map issued by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD);
b. The core zone of the ECAN map or the Strict Protection Zone (SPZ) of the protected area is considered a no-take zone, which means no activities are allowed in the area except for scientific research and cultural or traditional practices of the IPs; and
c. If the project pushes through, a total of 4,872 trees, as well as various wildlife species inventoried in the areas, shall be adversely affected.
Please take note that during the updating of the MMPL Protected Area Management Plan (PAMP), the Board adopted the ECAN map issued by the PCSD in 2005 as the latest official and approved map of ECAN. And while the article stated that the PCSD has approved a resolution on January 18, 2018, amending the map and reclassifying the project site into a tribal ancestral zone, such is still considered part of the continuous updating for the proposed ECAN map, and is still subject for approval.
5. Following the issuance of above-mentioned resolution, a letter informing PAMB’s disapproval of the project was sent to and received by CAMPAL President Taum.
6. During the PAMB en banc meeting on August 30, 2018, the Research Project, Planning and Evaluation Committee (RPPEC) through its chair, Mr. Enrique Nunez, issued an endorsement for CAMPAL’S agro-forestry plantation development. Beside his signature, Mr. Nunez noted “signed with reservations.”
During the meeting, RPEEC’s recommendation was then approved by Brooke’s Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano in her capacity as the presiding officer.
7. Please take note that the above-mentioned endorsement was made only by one of the technical working committees created by the Board as stated in Rule 11.12 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11038. The committee is under the board, it did not, in any way, represent the final decision of the Board.
In fact, a portion of the endorsement right before the signatories clearly noted that “The endorsement is issued without prejudice to the action of other agencies that may further review this application, such as the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, the Department of the Environment and Natural
Resources, and other agencies.”
Further, pursuant to Section 12 of RA 11038, a PAMB resolution must be duly approved and endorsed by majority of the PAMB members, and must be affirmed by the DENR Regional Executive Director, as the PAMB Chair.
In such authority, however, the RED must ensure that all policies and endorsements made by the Board are in accordance with the Protected Area Management Plan (PAMP) and existing rules and regulations.
Further, upon review of the draft resolution and minutes submitted to DENR MIMAROPA regional office, it was observed that there was no quorum specifically on the deliberation of CAMPAL project. As such, the documents were returned to the Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) with comments and instructions to confirm details on the quorum, and for the project to be subject for re-deliberation since no voting process was made.
8. It is here that we would like to reiterate that no PAMB clearance in the form of a PAMB resolution approved and passed by majority of the members as a prerequisite for the grant of ECC has been issued or pending.
The status of CAMPAL’s application for agro-forestry coffee plantation development remained disapproved per earlier issuance of PAMB Resolution No. 2018-02a dated February 22, 2018.
9. During the PAMB en banc meeting on December 16, 2019, CAMPAL’s application for the coffee-farm project was once again deliberated, and majority of the members present voted for the disapproval of the project due to the same reasons stated in PAMB Resolution No. 2018-02a. Only 1 member voted for approval.
This decision, together with the rest of agreements reached and made during the said meeting, shall be officially communicated to concerned proponents.
As the agency mandated to conserve and protect the environment and natural resources, the DENR would like to reiterate and give emphasis on the very reasons CAMPAL’s proposed project was denied twice.
More than 90% percent of project area is within the core zone or strict protection zone of Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, one of the country’s pride resources included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Various stakeholders, from forest rangers to community members, have taken risks and allocated resources in order to protect and conserve the treasured forest.
It can be recalled that in the said PAMB meeting on December 16, the local government units covering Mt. Mantalingahan, namely Brooke’s Point, Quezon, Dr. Jose Rizal, Sofronio Española, and Bataraza pledged a total of Php 2.5M to support forest protection activities and stricter enforcement of environmental laws in the protected area.
We acknowledge the purpose of the CAMPAL’s project for our IPs, and we are one in helping them alleviate poverty among our native fellows. However, every undertaking should be allowed in a manner that will not adversely affect the environment and biodiversity, and is consistent with existing policies, rules and regulations.
Approving the project means allowing close to 5,000 trees as well as the mountain’s rich biodiversity to be compromised. Converting the core zone or the strict protection zone into a large-scale farming nullifies strengthened efforts among various stakeholders to boost forest guardianship that would eventually benefit future generations.
We trust that with the facts presented, we have enlightened the public, much so the concerned stakeholders, on the matter at hand.
Very truly yours,
HENRY A. ADORNADO, PhD.
Regional Executive Director