Guba cemetery project public hearing set on July 15
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Does the end justify the means?
This was the question raised by Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera over the controversy surrounding the construction of a new public cemetery in Barangay Guba during the special session of the Cebu City Council on July 10, 2020.
Garganera said the city was torn between the urgent need for a burial site with the rising death toll of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) victims and the possible death of a protected landscape and water reservoir in the barangay.
This new cemetery has been the central discussion of the council following reports that 389 trees were cut without the permission of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to form the botanical memorial garden that Mayor Edgardo Labella has tagged urgent.
The DENR has recently ordered the stopping of the development until the city can explain the cutting of the trees and present their development plan with the corresponding mitigation measures to cushion the environmental impact of the cemetery.
Vice Mayor Michael Rama, in his privilege speech, lamented how the law was bypassed by this urgent desire to build the cemetery and seemingly forgetting the responsibility of the city to protect the environment.
“Do not mistake our support as subservient. We would like to bring to the attention that clearly the measure put in place protecting the environment and health is not secondary to anything even in an emergency. It is as important to us as to the future generation,” said the vice mayor.
Rama said that before the trees should have been cut and before the construction should have started, the ordinance should have been tackled in the City Council first allowing the public to air their concerns regarding the project.
Considering the 3 to 5-hectare property is part of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL), the permission of DENR and the CCPL board should have preceded the cutting of the trees.
The bypassing of the laws has caused a great sacrifice of the 389 Mahogany trees, that may not be endemic to Cebu, but has contributed to the ecosystem of the reservoir.
Councilor Alvin Dizon strongly denounced the cutting of the trees and the development of the land without the permission of the CCPL.
“A thorough investigation should be done on this controversy,” said Dizon.
Garganera said that since Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu was in Cebu City to oversee the COVID-19 response, the issue should be brought to him for a recommendation.
Since the city is stuck between two principles, the need for burial sites and the duty to protect the environment, the Secretary will have the answer because he handles both COVID-19 response and the DENR.
The City Council agreed to bring to Secretary Cimatu the issue as well as hold a public hearing on July 15, 2020 and bringing in speakers from the stakeholder groups to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of placing a new cemetery in Barangay Guba.
Rama said that for now, the development must be put on hold until the stakeholders had spoken because the project had been imbued with much public interest for both living and the dead./dbs
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