In a sudden change of heart, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) denied the request of the winning bidder of the New Bohol Airport to construct a “temporary landing pad” in Tabuan Beach, Purok 5, Barangay Tangnan, Panglao.
Florencio G. Dela Cruz, Jr., Project Manager of the New Bohol Airport Construction and Sustainable Environment Protection Project (NBACSEPP)
wrote the contractor of the airport, Chiyoda-Mitsubishi Joint Venture (CMJV) on May 15, 2015 saying “we cannot grant your request since the New Bohol Airport Construction was financed by JICA, we have to abide by the JICA’s Guidelines for the Environmental and Social considerations (ESC)”.
Dela Cruz, Jr, also cited the lack of “environmental impact studies conducted yet for the construction and operation of the proposed landing pad. . .”. by the project proponent.
The DOTC, less than two weeks earlier suggested to stakeholders to conduct a public hearing to “facilitate the proper implementation of the proposed project” adding “the proposal had already been coordinated with the DENR and an ocular inspection conducted almost two weeks ago with officials from DENR, DOTC and CMJV”.
According to JICA’s (Japan International Cooperation Agency) brochure, ESC are “sine qua non” or essential conditions for JICA assistance and “if the negative impact of the project cannot be avoided or mitigated to an acceptable level, JICA willl not support its implementation”.
The Chronicle learned that former Panglao Vice Mayor Evangeline Bon Lazaro personally hand carried to the DOTC office all documents relating to the assailed port proposal.
“I was stunned when the DOTC staff gave me a glowing report of the proposed port construction but they were taken aback when they read the letter portraying the real picture of the proposal”.
Lazaro who owns a diving resort located less than 300 meters from the proposed jetty port appealed to the DOTC, in behalf of the concerned residents of Panglao “to support the popular clamor of the concerned residents opposing the construction of a jetty port, landing pad facility or any similar facility constructed on the coastal waters of Tangnan, Panglao”.
Mired in controversy and bereft of any studies to mitigate adverse impact on the environment, the proposed port construction provoked an outcry from a deeply divided residents of Barangay Tangnan after municipal officials dangled the bright prospect of economic prosperity from the proposed port disregarding serious environmental concerns raised by more than 600 concerned residents.
The proposed “temporary landing pad” of CMJV in Tangnan, Panglao will fall under JICA’s environmental checklist for ports and harbors shows that under the category of Permits, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s) should have been prepared and approved together with other required environmental permits before project implementation.
JICA will require project proponents to answer questions on understanding obtained from local stakeholders including information disclosure on the contents of the project and it’s potential impacts and will require comments from the stakeholders such as local residents reflected to the project design.
The possibility of diseases, including infectious diseases such as HIV affecting the community due to workers connected to the project is also a concern to JICA especially issues on public health.
Questions should also be addressed by project proponents concerning coral reefs, mangroves, negative impact on aquatic organisms,
Pollutants from ships, vehicles and project equipment shall comply with the country’s emission standards and compliance of effluent standards and preventive measures should be in place for leakages of oils and dumping and discharge of toxicants.
Noise and vibrations are required to follow the country’s standards while adequate odor control measures taken.
However, Governor Edgar Chatto assured barangay residents that “environmental protection is always at the forefront of all development activities in the province and the bottom line here is consultation”.
JICA’s ESC encourages host country governments, including local governments, borrowers and project proponents to implement the appropriate measures for environmental and social considerations when engaging in cooperation activities.
ESC aims to avoid or minimize negative impacts on the environment or society, such as pollution, loss of natural habitat, involuntary resettlement and infringement of people’s rights.
Despite stringent requirements imposed by JICA on their assisted projects, residents opposing the port construction considers the environmental price tag a high price to pay for the much bandied economic prosperity for a temporary project as trumpeted by top municipal officials.
CMJV planned port project includes pile driving steel columns into the shallow portions of the shores of Tabuan beach to acommodate heavy equipment and aggregates for the New Bohol Airport.
But, according to Chatto, the steel columns supporting the pier will be dismantled and removed after 30 months or more than two years.
Another obstacle that has to be resolved by the proponents is the municipality’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) that delineates all coastal areas for tourism purposes.
The Tangnan shorelines are dotted with more than six dive resorts within the world renowned Napaling dive spot located a few meters from the proposed port site.
The “defenders of Tabuan Seas” has chosen to reject the project for a better future with officials of the local airport project management team seeking a balance between development and the environment affecting the lives of the local residents of Tangnan, Panglao.(CMV)