A local church and a tribal association are protesting the plan to privatize foreshore lands and to build cottages on the waters in Barangay Sibaltan in El Nido, claiming that they were not properly consulted before village officials agreed to greenlight the project.
A representative of the movement said that the resort project at Sitio Tabey involves dredging the land along the edge of the sea that looks out to the nearby Bangcalungan Reef Marine Sanctuary that had already been declared as a marine protected area (MPA).
Michael Gabo, a youth leader who works at the Sta. Potenciana Pastoral Parish Council in Sibaltan, told Palawan News that they are protesting Treasure Point Vacation Club’s project as it will also change the landscape in a known cultural site and prevent the Tagbanua indigenous peoples (IP) from accessing the shoreline.
Gabo said he is leading a signature campaign to stop Treasure Point’s construction activities, which have already bulldozed a sloping portion for aggregates.
“Gumawa kami ng petition para sa pagtutol [sa proyekto] kasi ang mga opisyal namin ay nag-agree na sila [sa proyekto], na walang public consultation. ‘Yong target namin ay makakuha ng 1,000 o mas higit pa na mga taong pipirma sa petition,” he said.
Gabo is working with the Katempedan Pinagtibukan it Mga Bagerar, Inc., an IP association comprised of Tagbanua and Tandulano Cuyunon residents.
In a statement he posted on Facebook on December 22, Gabo said the foreshore land is the only passageway for the IPs to reach the beachfront for their fishing and shell gathering.
“Ang gusto nilang isapribado na foreshore ay katihan kung saan ito ay pangunahing pinagkukunan ng pagkaing pang-araw-araw, tulad ng mga alimango, dawat, alimasag, balilit, sikad-sikad, pasyak aripuros, lato, paket-paket, at iba pa,” he said.
Gabo said some information about Treasure Point’s dredging activities were withheld from them at first but he had already seen through its plan.
“Pero nakita ko ang mga plano nila, napictyuran ko, nakita ko talaga na may mangyayaring dredging. Sisirain talaga nila ang palaisdaan,” he said.
Aside from blocking the passageway, Gabo added that bulldozing the nearby mountain for construction has already begun, significantly changing the natural landscape.
Gabo said Sibaltan locals were not properly consulted before agreeing to the terms of the project, and that the organizers disguised the so-called consultation as an event where seniors were given free medicine while El Nido Sangguniang Bayan and the tourist police narrated the benefits of the project. He added it was more of a campaign rather than a consultation.
“Nagpatawag sila ng mga senior citizens kasi magbibigay raw ng mga libreng gamot, vitamins. Wala pa nga sa 20 [katao] ang pumunta doon, at mga tauhan din nila [mga barangay officials] ‘yong nag-attend. Wala silang pinatawag na iba-ibang sektor ng barangay, dapat sana andoon ang mga purok president, mga representative ng youth, mga fishermen, mga may-ari ng accommodations,” he added.
However, questions were still allowed during the so-called consultation, to which Gabo took the opportunity to ask questions about the legality of the project. He was, however, cut off mid-speech by the moderators.
“Sa gitna ng pagsasalita ko doon, pinahinto ako kasi hindi pala puwedeng magsalita, puwede lang daw magtanong,” he said. He was also asked by the officials to take down his social media posts pertaining to opposing the project, which he refused to do.
Palawan News has sought for a reaction from some Sangguniang Bayan members who were at the gathering, but is yet to receive a reply.