The controversial proposal during the term of the late Gov. Erico Aumentado to reclaim 450 hectares of Panglao Bay is back.
This after the Court of Appeals reconsidered a resolution after the full payment of a measly sum of P30.00 was made and ordered the parties to the case to submit their respective positions.
In the forefront of this proposal is Norris Oculam who represents as president and chairman of the board of directors of the corporation. The group is expected to generate prospective investors for the gigantic project to reclaim several islands off Panglao Bay.
Oculam claims to be appointed soon finance officer of gubernatorial bet LeoncioEvasco, Jr. He is the chairman of ABAKA, a group supporting the candidacy of Evasco particularly in the fight against corruption.
Efforts to resuscitate the doomed 450-hectare reclamation project at Panglao Bay in the municipality of Panglao nearly failed after the Court of Appeals (CA) Twentieth (20th) Division dismissed the appeal of Oasis Leisure Islands Development Incorporated (Oasis).
Oasis filed an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 4, Tagbilaran City dismissing its action for Specific Performance against the Provincial Government of Bohol (PGB) and the SangguniangPanlalawigan (SP).
But the CA, in a resolution penned by Associate Justice Louis P. Acosta dismissed the appeal when upon review, the payment of the mandatory docket fee was found short by a measly Php30.00.
According to the resolution promulgated on August 17, 2018, and concurred by Associate Justices Pamela Ann AbellaMaxino, Chairperson, and Dorothy P. Montejo Gonzaga that the payment of the full docket fees within the prescribed period “is not a mere technicality of law or procedure but a jurisdictional requirement.”
FAILURE TO HONOR
Oasis, represented by Oculam instituted Civil Case No. 8083 on May 21, 2012 after the PGB and the SP allegedly “renege on their obligations and refuse to honor” a valid Joint Venture and Development Agreement (JVDA) enacted by the SP under Resolution No. 2009-633 on December 22, 2009.
Oasis also asked the court for the PGB and the SP to pay legal services and other litigation expenses in the amount of at least PhP400,000.00.
The JVDA was entered into by Oasis and the PGB represented by then Gov. Aumentado on June 19, 2010, who was in his last few days of a nine-year term as governor and raised serious concerns by a festering public uproar over serious environmental issues surrounding the ambitious but controversial project.
The dispute over the enforcement of the JVDA came into a head a year and a half into the new administration of Chatto after Oasis wrote the PGB on December 16, 2011 “reminding and requesting it to perform its obligation under the JVDA”.
The assailed JVDA authorized the late Governor EricoAumentado to negotiate with Oasis on the proposed reclamation project and to conduct an environmental study to ensure that there shall be no irreversible damage to the local environment of the project site.
Oasis also questioned the joint findings of the SP committees on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and Tourism claiming that they were not the environmental study team as contemplated by the JVDA, the findings were not the result of a study but of public hearings and challenged the educational attainment and relevant experience of those who conducted the alleged study.
But the PGB and the SP argued that Aumentado was only authorized to “negotiate only” and was not duly authorized to enter into an agreement on behalf of the Province.
The JVDA, according to the defendants was entered into “with barely eleven days prior to the expiration of the term of the former governor thus, he was not duly authorized to enter into the JVDA.
But on July 3, 2017, the RTC, Branch 4 Presiding Judge SisinioVirtudazo, invoking its role as protector of the environment, ruled in favor of the PGB and the SP that based on the consultation and study of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology and Marine Science Institute, the project “presents a clear danger to the healthy biodiversity and sensitive marine environment within the offshore area of Panglao Bay.”
The 17-page court decision chided Oasis for its glaring failure to present evidence that there was already a favorable finding on the sustainability of the project before the matter was referred to the UP experts.
The decision also stressed that “assuming that there was a favorable recommendation during the time of the former governor, such finding is not binding upon the new administration.”
BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST
The court also affirmed that the resource persons, Dr. Rollon and Professor Villanoy are “presumed experts in their respective fields”.
The decision also sustained the motion of the SP to refer the matter to the experts as a condition precedent for the validity of the contract.
In the case of the question over the validity of the JVDA, the court ruled that the PGB and the SP “are not guilty of breach of contract because in the first place there was no binding contract at all.”
The court also praised the PGB and the SP that “representing the people, have rightly performed their task of safeguarding the rights of the people they represent.”
According to the CA Judicial Records Section – Civil Case Unit, payment of the docket fee that was short of Php30.00 was made on September 13, 2017, by Oasis counsel Atty. RodyPadlan. (Chito M. Visarra)