Residents, farmers, and fisherfolk of Barangay Calategas in the municipality of Narra are protesting the construction of a seawall allegedly bankrolled by a political party list, citing a lack of consultation and proper permitting of the project.
Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) has confirmed that the project has no Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance, a prerequisite for all major construction projects under Palawan’s SEP Law.
In a virtual press conference on Thursday organized by the community and the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc. (ELAC), community members explained that they have yet to receive feedback from local and national government agencies concerned after filing their complaints against the ongoing construction of the seawall. The protesters explained that no consultation was done, and that they believe the seawall may cause additional flooding in their seaside community.
“Masisira ang natural na anyo ng aming dalampasigan, wala itong safety na magagawa sa amin. Isa siyang magiging hadlang sa amin [dahil] mababangga ang mga bangka namin sa seawall kapag nakadaong. Magkakaroon ng paghuhukay sa hibasan, apektado ang pagkuha namin ng shells na source ng aming hanapbuhay sa tuwing taghirap,” said Freddie Capispisan, a local pastor and fisherfolk leader.
“Sa tuwing may malakas na ulan at high tide, tumataas ang tubig dito. Kapag nagkaroon ng seawall, tataas pa lalo ang at papasok sa mga bahay namin,” said Ana Marie Zurdito, another fishing community member.
One of the protesters, Teofilo Tredez, explained that prior to the seawall’s construction, illegal tree cutting and reclamation activities have been done in a nearby mangrove area to make an access road connected to the seawall. He added that despite filing complaints, several government offices refused to believe them and made official statements that no such activities happened in the area.
“Kapag kaming mga mangingisda at magsasaka ay pumutol ng kahit tatlong pirasong bakaw (mangrove tree), tinuturing kaming mga kriminal. Pero noong tiningnan ng DENR ng Narra ang nireklamo namin, sabi nila wala naman daw pamumutol na nangyari,” he explained.
A formal petition to investigate and halt the construction of the seawall has already garnered a total of 1,012 signatures.
According to environmental lawyer and ELAC chief Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda, the project’s proponent is the Buhay Party List. She added that the proponent may be charged for violating the SEP Law and the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System for failing to consult the community affected by the project and not conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and for building in a Core Zone, since the project is situated in a mangrove area.
“Sa pag-imbestiga namin, walang konsultasyon. Wala nga kaming nakitang project design. Ayon sa Republic Act 9184, mayroong PDEA (Preliminary Detailed Engineering Activities). At bahagi ng PDEA ay pumunta sa komunidad, dapat nandiyan ang mga engineer ng DPWH, at dapat environmental impact assessment, so mahabang proseso yan, pero hindi ‘yan ang nangyari,” she said.
Anda added that under the Local Government Code, the Narra municipal government is also compelled to consult first with the affected community before greenlighting a major project. According to the protesters, no such consultation on the barangay level was held.
PCSDS orders compliance
In a separate interview, PCSDS executive director Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta stated that the Council has ordered the proponents to comply with their proper permits. He added that they will also look into the protester’s claims of illegal mangrove tree cutting.
“Yes, no SEP and no prior coordination. We are ordering [them] to comply. Also, we are assessing environmental damage based on historical aerial imagery and verify water flow claim. We will verify for ourselves if mangroves were indeed destroyed,” Matta said in a text message.