Two aspiring Provincial Board (PB) members called on the provincial government to ensure that environmental requirements are fulfilled before construction of the controversial Regional Cultural Hub (RCH) atop Banat-i Hill in Tagbilaran City starts.
In a press conference on Tuesday, lawyer Jami Villamor and Dominic Butalid raised reservations over the project due to possible environmental hazards but acknowledged its capacity to spur economic activity.
Villamor and Butalid, both under the opposition led by Rep. Aris Aumentado, are seeking seats in the PB which is currently dominated by allies of Governor Arthur Yap and has been perceived to be a rubber-stamp of the administration.
Villamor, who is Aumentado’s niece, said the RCH could likely be deemed an environmentally critical project (ECP) and should first secure an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and undergo an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
It is up to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to determine if a project is considered an ECP or not.
“If it is ECP, which the DENR should identify or determine kailangan na siya mo sunod sa mga requirements like the ECC and the EIA. So, for now, I am against it [project] unless the government can really satisfactorily matubag na nila,” Villamor said.
The RCH is being implemented by the Department of Highways on Public Works and Highways (DPWH) but it was the provincial government that donated land for the project which is located on top of Banat-i Hill, a lone heavily vegetated hill in Tagbilaran City.
It was also the Provincial Development Council which first proposed the project in 2020 as among priority programs for 2021.
The resolution endorsing the project to the Regional Development Council was signed by Vice Governor Rene Relampagos who at the time was acting governor temporarily taking over the duties of Yap who was serving a three-month preventive suspension as ordered by the Sandiganbayan.
Villamor also raised concern over the observance of procurement laws in the implementation of the project whose Phase 1 was noted to have been awarded to Achacoso Enterprises in the amount of P134 million prior to the conduct of a public consultation.
“Our procurement laws should be strictly complied with kay aduna man gyud tay gisunod ana on the bidding process, so whether or not nauna ang pag award or ang pagkonsulta sa mga taw so makita na siya nato didto,” said Villamor.
However, Engineer Teresa Delado of the DPWH earlier explained that the amount supposedly released for the project was only “on paper” and was “put on hold” pending completion and approval of the results of the Detailed Engineering Design.
In the same press conference, Butalid expressed support for Villamor’s call for the government’s compliance with environmental regulations but noted the economic benefits of the RCH.
He also saw the project’s importance in showcasing not just Bohol’s culture, but also that of the entire Central Visayas region.
“Kaning cultural hub og madayon man gani ni ug kung makapass sa tanang requirements dako’g boost ni sa atong kultura kay right now daghan tang mga musicians, artists, choirs, naa tay bamboo orchestras, naa tay rondallas and angay na e-showcase nato,” said Butalid, who is the son of Enriqueta Butalid, former head of Center for Culture and Arts Development in Bohol. (R. Tutas)