A law firm representing a resort developer facing opposition from a group of Tagbanua indigenous tribes in El Nido has denied accusations raised against them.
Weigand & Partners, a law firm representing Treasure Point Vacation Club, denied claims earlier made by church leader Michael Gabo, who also works with the local Tagbanua group, about the company’s development plans to build waterfront cottages.
The firm dismissed the allegation made by Gabo that the company’s plan to develop water cottages and the beach property in the site will affect the livelihood of the tribes in the area.
According to its website, Treasure Point brands itself as “the Philippines’ only five-star all-inclusive lifetime vacation” offering cottages built above seawater and luxury villas with views of the sea. It also states that the company plans to develop more than 10 hectares of land in 550 meters of coastline.
“Contrary to Mr. Gabo’s false claims, our client will not conduct any dredging activities and such is not part of the project’s development plan,” the firm’s managing partner, Atty. Pierre Martin Reyes said in the statement sent to Palawan News Thursday.
“Dredging would be totally inconsistent with our client’s pending foreshore lease application with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” Reyes added.
Reyes said that the foreshore area that Gabo claimed will be privatized is only a lease arrangement with the DENR. He added that the lease is lawful because of the absence of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), therefore, all claims the tribal groups make on the area are invalid.
“To our knowledge, there is no Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title issued to the Tagbanua IPs nor pending CADT application over the said foreshore and the adjacent waters and, hence, our Client’s foreshore lease application with the DENR, representing the State which has patrimony over the said foreshore,” he added.
Pertaining to the alleged absence of a proper public consultation that Gabo said in his December 22 Facebook posts (now taken down) and statements to Palawan News,
Responding to claims that it had not properly consulted the local tribes about the project, Reyes said it is the role of the local government.
“With regard to Mr. Gabo’s claim that no proper consultation was done in relation to the proposed project of our client, we note that such consultations are a political or government process to which, as a matter of policy, our client does not interfere with, whether directly or indirectly,” he said.
The law firm’s statement did not address the fact that Treasure Point has not yet secured a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) Clearance from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), a pre-requisite to building structures or altering the natural landscape of environmentally critical areas in Palawan.
“According to our Division records, wala pa silang SEP clearance. In fact, bago pa lang silang nag-a-apply sa amin,” PCSD Staff spokesperson Jovic Fabello said in a separate interview Tuesday.
Fabello added that the company only has an ECAN Zoning Clearance, and is also unsure whether they have secured Environmental Compliance/Impact Certificates (ECC/EIC), two other important requirements for construction projects in the critical area.