A FAMILY that owns beach resorts in Samal Island has asked the new administration to intervene in the Samal-Davao bridge project by canceling its environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and undertake a reassessment.
Lawyer Julito R. Sarmiento, one of the legal counsels of the Rodriguez family, said the ECC issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on January 4, 2021, was null and void as it did not undergo clearance from the Protected Area Management Board.
Mr. Sarmiento said they sent a letter on July 20 addressed to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., DENR Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, and Public Works Secretary Manuel M. Bonoan asking them to revisit the bridge alignment.
The bridge’s landing site on the Samal side will cover a reef in between Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort and Costa Marina Beach Resort, both owned by the family.
“We are appealing to the current administration to cancel the ECC and conduct a new environmental impact assessment (EIA), honest to goodness, and… inform the people,” he told the media last week.
“The EIA should look at what are the alternative sites.”
Another family legal counsel, Marcelino C. Rongo, said all possible alignments should have an EIA to determine which one would be the best option.
“An EIA is a planning tool and if you assessed only one area with the sole purpose to justify a decision that was already made, then that is not a genuine EIA. That makes the ECC void,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.
Mr. Rongo also cited that the entire Samal Island was proclaimed a protected area in 1981 and that a proposal reducing the coverage area of that declaration has yet to be approved either through a presidential order or legislation.
Mr. Sarmiento said they are prepared to take the matter to court but will first exhaust all other possible appeal routes.
“Part of the key agenda of the present government is for sustainable development and environment protection. This is what the President mentioned in his State of the Nation Address so we are hoping and waiting from the Office of the President to respond to us,” he said.
Mr. Sarmiento emphasized that the resort owners are only calling into question the alignment, and that they fully support the bridge project, which is seen to bring faster economic development to the island.
The Philippine government under the previous administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed a $350-million loan deal with China on June 13 for the bridge linking Samal Island to mainland Mindanao in the country’s south.
The bridge was proposed years before Mr. Duterte was elected as the country’s chief executive. It was included in his administration’s priority infrastructure program.
In January 2021, the Department of Public Works and Highways and China Road and Bridge Corporation signed a P19.32-billion design and build contract for the project, which was a prerequisite for the loan agreement application with China. — Maya M. Padillo