DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 May) – An environmental group hopes that the Supreme Court will decide in favor of a petition filed by the Rodriguez family last March 16, seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the construction of the multi-billion Samal Island-Davao City Connector Project.
Ecoteneo director Mylai Santos told MindaNews that they are hoping to secure a TRO on the project because the national agencies are not heeding their calls to save Paradise Reef, a 7,500-square meter Amarine creatures.”
“I just hope that the people will see that the issue is not about property rights, but rights of nature and, in the end, the rights of our children to a climate-secure future,” she said.
Environmentalists here hope the High Court would exercise its “wisdom as it has in previous and even in environmental cases” when it decides on the petition for “continuing mandamus and prohibition” with an application for TRO.
She said the interests of the people should come first in the face of ecological risks and threats. The bridge project, she added, is not just about the “road right of way issue,” reiterating the group’s previous calls to realign the bridge project to a location with the least direct ecological costs.
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 the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS).
The Rodriguez family owns both resorts.
On the Davao City side, the landing point is situated along R. Castillo-Daang Maharlika junction in Barangay Hizon, crossing over a marine protected area of Barangay Hizon, which is included in the Comprehensive Land-Use Plan (CLUP) 2018-2028.
The family previously offered to donate another property, Caliclic Beach Resort, located about a kilometer away from Paradise Island, as an alternative site for Davao-Samal Bridge project’s landing point as its coast no longer has a coral reef capable of supporting a diverse marine ecosystem.
The petitioners resorted to bringing the case to the Supreme Court last March after the Court of Appeals decided against the issuance of TRO early this year.
In a statement sent to the media, Atty. Ramon Edison Batacan, counsel for the Rodriguez Family, said their petition “states that the DPWH committed brazen violations of the law, to the utter prejudice of the environment and the rule of law, and without regard to the protected area status of the Samal Island Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve.”
In particular, Batacan pointed out the glaring lack of a valid Protected Area Management Board clearance from the PAMB explicitly mandated by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7586 or the Natinoal Integrated Protected Areas System Act, as amended by the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act prior to the issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the SIDC Project.
He said the DPWH has proceeded with project implementation without the requisite permits and clearances.
“The manifest disregard for the law undercuts the very foundation of our environmental laws and the EIA process, especially the legal safeguards instituted to preserve the country’s protected areas,” he said.
He added that the family’s efforts before the Executive Branch to correct the defects of the ECC had failed through “government indifference and inaction. “
He said project implementation has perilously commenced without a valid PAMB Clearance and a valid ECC. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)