Politics trump Conservation Again

Landfill behind etrajudicial Killing of Mangrove Forest

THIS WIDE canal at the approach of the landfill was where mangroves were illegally cut supposedly by farmers but which landfill opponents blamed on the company developing the facility. TONETTE OREJAS/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZONThe activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday announced they would ask staunch allies in the House of Representatives and other sympathetic congressmen to investigate what they group called “extrajudicial killing” of mangrove areas in Obando, Bulacan in favor a 44-hectare landfill.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chairperson and Anakpawis party list vice chairman Fernando Hicap said he would ask Bayan Muna party list Reps. Teddy Casino and Neri Colmenares, Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Gabriela party list lawmakers Emmi de Jesus and Luzviminda Ilagan, Kabataan Party list Rep. Raymond Palatino and Rep. Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) to initiate a full-blown investigation pertaining to the massive cutting of mangrove trees in favor of landfill project operated by Ecoshield Development Corporation (EDC).

EDC, chaired by former ambassador Antonio Cabangon Chua is building a 44-hectare landfill in Barangay Salambao. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), which allows EDC to construct two sets of barge docking area for landfill.

The government has no data on the extent of mangrove cover and its report to the United Nations Environment Program and Global Environment Facility in 2005 suggests those remain in Manila Bay are relics.

According to18 photographs taken between July 2001 and July 2012, Obando with an area of 52 square kilometers, is left with less than 5-kilometer strip of mangroves.

“Obando will be erased in the map of Bulacan, will be decimated as part of Central Luzon and Manila Bay if this grand massacre of mangrove forests in favor of destructive landfill will not be stopped by the national and local governments and the environmental authorities of the DENR.

It is so diabolical of DENR to call Obando’s mangrove forests as relics just to give premium to massive cutting of mangrove trees in favor of a multi-million profit making garbage enterprise,” Hicap noted.

The Pamalakaya leader blamed the massive cutting of mangrove forests in Obando to mass displacement of people at the height of typhoon “Pedring’ and typhoon “ Quiel” that hit Central Luzon last year.

The destruction of mangrove areas as natural defense system of coastal villagers in Barangay Salambao and nearby fishing communities caused the fatal flooding in 2011 that resulted to economic dislocation of all 11 villages in Obando, and affected 65,245 residents and sent 13, 109 people to evacuation centers as giant waves and storm surges destroyed 896 houses and damaged 1,823 others.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list blamed DENR secretary Ramon Paje for ignoring the plea of fishermen and coastal residents urging the department to nullify the ECC it granted in 2010. The groups said Secretary Paje should be made principally liable along with owners of EDC for pursuing the landfill project despite strong objection from the small-fisherfolk, members of the communities and environmental advocates.

“Obando is now a lost paradise courtesy of this landfill project which is pursued in the name of multi-million profits from garbage collection and landfilling escapade. The DENR and their partners in crime deserved wholesale condemnation and a deluge of criminal and civil cases before any appropriate court in the country,” the groups said. By Gerry Albert Corpuz

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