Civic sector to Cebu City gov’t: Protect our environment

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio - CDN Digital | July 15,2020 - 08:33 PM
Barangay Guba in Cebu City. | Google photos

Barangay Guba in Cebu City. | Google photos

CEBU CITY, Philippines — A group of environmentalists and civic society members is asking the Cebu City government to protect the environment even if it is facing a public health emergency.

Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon joined the group in their position paper against the cutting of 389 trees and the unpermitted development of a lot in Barangay Guba, which is supposedly part of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL) and within the Kotkot-Lusaran Watershed Forest Reserve.

The lot was to be transformed into a new public cemetery for Cebu City until the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) stopped the project.

Read: VM Rama says cutting of 300 trees for new cemetery should have gone through proper process

“We, the civic society, express our vehement objection against the ongoing development by the Cebu City government of the proposed 30-hectare cemetery botanical memorial garden in Sitio Catives II in Barangay Guba as it is located within the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL).

“We also express our extreme outrage against the illegal cutting of 389 mahogany trees in a blitzkrieg fashion to rush the construction work of the public cemetery without the necessary permits and clearances from the concerned government agencies,” said the group.

The group said the cutting was a violation of the Constitutional Right to a Balanced and Healthful Ecology, and they maintained that the planned cemetery will have detrimental effects on the environment considering that the proposed site is inside a watershed area.

The group also condemned how the city bypassed the CCPL regulations that any development of lots in the area should be presented to the Central Cebu Protected Landscape Protected Area Management Board (CCPL-PAMB) for a permit.

The development did not acquire the other permits from the DENR as well including the cutting of the 389 trees.

“Clearly, the actions of the Cebu City Government in developing the cemetery botanical memorial garden without any kind of permit or license from the DENR or the PAMB in the protected area is a blatant violation of the provision of the NIPAS Act, as amended,” said the group.

The group urged the city to investigate the incident and explain to the public how the trees were cut and how the laws were bypassed for the cemetery.

“We reiterate that the building of cemetery in Barangay Guba, even during an emergency situation, cannot be railroaded without undergoing the process as mandated by law. These processes are important in order that the constitutionally-enshrined right to a balanced and healthful ecology is protected.”

The group was composed of representatives from Phil. Earth Justice Center, Inc., Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCE-Cebu), Normandy Chair for Peace, Kaabag sa Sugbo Foundation, Inc., Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) Philippines Project, Akbayan Women, STEP Philippines, Pagtambayayong Foundation, Lihok Pilipina Foundation, Inc., Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino BMP-Cebu, and other.

The position paper was also presented in the Cebu City Council’s regular session on July 15, 2020, where a public hearing was being conducted for the proposed ordinance for Councilor David Tumulak.

The city government already stopped the development in Guba as Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who is also overseeing the Interagency Task Force (IATF) in Cebu, ordered an investigation on the incident and spearheaded the hunt for a better location, now pegged at a lot in Barangay Sapangdaku.

The City Legal Office (CLO) also justified that the Mahogany trees cut were not endangered species, not endemic to Cebu, and can even be considered as invasive.

However, Regional DENR in Central Visayas (DENR-7) Executive Director Paquito Melicor told the council that even though Mahogany trees are not endemic, they still help in the environment and are still part protected along with the entire CCPL to which they belong.

The investigation is ongoing, says Melicor, and if proven guilty, the city government may be slapped with administrative charges for failing to protect its environment. /bmjo


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