MANILA — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has canceled the environmental compliance certificate of the 51-hectare reclamation project in Coron, Palawan, which advocates say has brought negative impact on the town's marine ecosystem.
According to Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones, all reclamation-related activities of the Coron Bay Development Project has been immediately suspended.
The first ECC was issued to the provincial government of Palawan, who is the proponent of CBDP, in 2007 for a 3-hectare coastal reclamation in Coron.
The provincial government was granted another ECC in 2009 for an additional reclamation of 48 hectares in the renowned tourist destination.
Based on DENR's investigation, the project lacked necessary permits such as an area clearance, Leones said. It also didn't operate for 5 years after the ECCs were released.
In a DENR order dated May 12, the provincial government has been slapped with a P50,000 fine for failing to submit a compliance monitoring report from 2012 to 2018.
"Makita natin medyo negative 'yung impact sa environment kaya kinancel natin 'yung ECC diyan," Leones told TeleRadyo Wednesday.
"As a department tasked to protect the environment, we will always be siding for the protection and conservation of our natural resources," he added.
Lawyer Christian Cojamco, provincial information officer of Palawan, disclosed that the provincial government halted all reclamation-related activities in 2021 after they found it lacked necessary permits.
He reiterated that the project was started by the previous provincial administration. The project was put on hold in 2012 "due to lack of funds" and restarted in 2018 under a new provincial administration.
"The sad part here is this project was started by the previous administration and there has been no proper transfer [of documents]. This is not part of our priority projects," he told ANC's "Rundown".
Cojamco also dismissed allegations there was no public consultation when the project began.
While he said "it may be true" that the project has brought adverse effects on the environment, he said it is "a lesser evil than to destroy the mountains of Coron."
"The land area [there] for commercial use, residential use is very limited. So what's available only for the provincial government is to reclaim because we don't want to destroy forest lands, the mountains of Coron," he said.
Cojamco said the provincial government would continue the project should DENR reinstate its ECC.
"We will only file a motion for reconsideration on the cancellation. As to the imposed fine, we are very much willing to pay the fine," he said.
A group of environment advocates has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to sign an executive order for the rehabilitation of Coron Bay.
A biophysical study conducted by marine biologist, Dr. Filipina Sotto, showed 27 percent of corals in impacted area are now dead while others are slowly dying from continuous sedimentation. Mangroves are also in danger of dying after being cut off from access to regular water supply, the study revealed.
Sagip Coron is blaming the provincial government for the project. They alleged the government had various violations including the absence of mitigating measures to avoid the destruction of mountains, mangroves and the marine ecosystem.