‘Chinese bullies’ spotted near Paradise Reef

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Nov) – Weeks after the groundbreaking of the Samal Island-Davao City (SIDC) Connector project, environmental group Ecoteneo of the Ateneo de Davao University said another sea vessel with Chinese workers on board was spotted near the Paradise Reef off the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) on Thursday.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte lead the groundbreaking ceremonnies of the Samal Island – Davao City Connector project on 27 October 2022. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Ecoteneo, in a statement posted on its social media, said that some “Chinese bullies” were seen cruising close to the Paradise Reef, a 300-meter contiguous reef considered by conservationists as a critical marine area for marine biodiversity.

While the Department of Environment and Natural Resource is celebrating 2022 as the “Year of Protected Areas,” the group said the government is pursuing a project that would destroy “one of the last remaining coral reefs of Samal.”

“Are we really taking on a loan of P19 billion for a P23-billion project to destroy one of the last remaining coral reefs in Samal?” the group said.

It said the ongoing activities of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are illegitimate “insofar as permitting processes and zoning laws with the barangay and City Council and Davao LGU as a whole, is concerned.”

Dean Ortiz, spokesperson for DPWH-Davao, said he has “no idea” about the activities of the workers but added that he would ask.

The state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), selected as the contractor of the SIDC project, has been conducting a geotechnical survey since September 1.

The actual civil works on the bridge are expected to commence in February 2023, according to Yuan Xiao Cong, CRBC deputy general manager.

The Ecoteneo said the City Council of Davao has not endorsed the project in its present design and that the resolution of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) in Samal excluding the affected area from protection “is illegally constituted.”

“Some news peddling entities continue to parrot DPWH in saying that this project is a go and that there are no problems on the Davao side. We have no problem with the bridge. Our issue is the alignment (take-off and landing site),” it said.

During the second Joint Committee Hearing on the SIDC Project at the City Council of Davao, the group said the endorsement of the City Council in 2019 and the certification of no-objection from Barangay Hizon were intended to facilitate the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and not for the approval of the bridge project’s present design of bridge project.

It said the national government has yet to commence the EIS.

Barangay captain Erico R. Talili said that Galerio group, subcontractor of the government’s Hong Kong-based consultant Arup, told barangay officials that it would not affect the marine protected area of Barangay Hizon, which is included in the Comprehensive Land-Use Plan (CLUP) 2018-2028.

“The SIDC Bridge crosses over protected areas and environmentally critical areas on both sides,” the Ecoteneo said.

The landing point of the SIDC project, also known as the Davao City-Samal Bridge, is situated on the coast of Costa Marina Beach Resort, which is adjacent to Paradise Island Park & Beach Resort in Barangay Caliclic, Babak District of Samal.

On Davao City side, the landing point is situated at R. Castillo-Daang Maharlika junction in Barangay Hizon.

Lawyer Israelito Torreon, legal counsel of Dominic & Sons Realty and Development Corp., said the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) only approved it as “project” without stating any location in particular.

Once the actual construction of the project commences, he said all businesses in Lanang will die.

He said the government has not done a traffic impact assessment. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)