Mayor, City Council to probe “cease & desist” unofficial PRA order

On orders of Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo, all heavy equipment and workers were pulled out from the work site at Rizal Boulevard in compliance to the directive of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Environmental Management Bureau 7 temporarily suspending the ECC for the rehabilitation and shoreline protection project until the Notice to Proceed shall have been obtained.

NEWS NOTES

Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo has called on the City Council to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation to determine individuals responsible for the issuance of so-called un-authenticated “cease and desist order” unceremoniously suspending the reclamation project at the Rizal boulevard in Dumaguete City.

Mayor Remollo said such document was not formally sent to nor received by his office. Although addressed to him, the signatory is not identified, definitely not by the PRA manager, and that it was merely transmitted by a local newsreporter who will not even reveal the source.

Therefore, it was a mere scrap of paper.

How can a city government act on an unofficial “order” which did not even officially reach the mayor’s office? But in fairness, work at the shoreline protection project is temporarily halted until such time tht the Phil Reclamation Authority PRA confirms the officiality (or not) of the letter.

LEGAL BASIS

Under the law, by act of both Houses of Congress and signed by the President RA 1899 abd RA 5797 Dumaguete Charter as amended, the local government is authorized to reclaim foreshore lands for the protection of its shores from storm surges, tsunamis, and erosions among others. No ECC is needed for less than one hectare project such as the present one. ECC is needed only when there are infrastructures to be built which is not the case. It is a mere flat land of sand and gravel. But wisely used for sports events.

So who signed the order in behalf of the PRA manager? Nobody knows.

It was allegedly signed for and in behalf of Atty Janilo E. Rubiato, general manager and chief executive officer of Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) dated March 2019, but it could be signed by anyone, that of a driver, a janitor or a clerck in the absence of a written name.

As a laywer by profession, Mayor Remollo would have ignored the same but his detractors continue to malign his name for having implemented a project without the necessary documents.

JOINT MEMO

Remollo said the city and the PRA general manager and chief executive officer had signed a letter of cooperation in 2017 for the developments of the Rizal boulevard, and so he knows the signature of the PRA GM and CEO.

But the alleged cease and desist order bares another UNIDENTIFIABLE signature. Did some white lady sign it? Or did some envious politicians cause the stir? No one knows for sure.

Thus, Mayor Remollo is talking with PRA in Manila this week, seeking answers whether the signatory has the authority of the PRA board.

Unconfirmed reports have it another CDO was allegedly signed by the assistant GM for land development and construction management and technical services. But the signatory should have been identified.

As a self-sustaining agency under the office of the President, it encourages local government units and the private sector to reclaim submerged portion of the territories of cities and municipalities to exclude the provinces because PRA collects 30 percent of the fees from big reclamation projects like the reclamation project at the Roxas boulevard where the Mall of Asia is located.

FUND RAISING

However, PRA gets nothing from locally-funded projects like the one being implemented in Dumaguete except that of so-called big ticket reclamation projects like in Cebu, Talisay, Mandaue, and Cordova.

Besides, the mayor said PRA has no authority to stop the existing reclamation project in Dumaguete being a mere coordinating agency.

Nothwithstanding the fact that the authority of the city to reclaim is provided for in RA 5797 otherwise known as the revised charter of Dumaguete City which provides that it can undertake and carry out the reclamation of submerged land from the sea adjoining the city limits at the expense of the city, the area thus reclaimed to belong exclusively to the city, or to cause to be undertaken by private contractors such reclamation work on terms and conditions approved by the city council and the mayor.

CITY CHARTER

Remollo stressed there’s nothing in the city’s charter that says it is subject to the approval of the DENR or PRA, because on the part of PRA, it is merely concerned of their 30% percent share from the fees of big ticket reclamation projects while the DENR’s concern is on the environment.

The city chief executive lambasted what he believes as “alarmists”, those who claimed to be environmentalists so they will continue to receive money from their international funders. They have to create “noise” to justify their existence, Remollo added.

CITY AUTHORITY

The CDO cannot outweigh the authority of the city to reclaim under the charter, Remollo stressed.

The mayor explained, it first started with the construction of a box culvert protruding to the sea worth P3.4 million so people will not smell the bad and foul odor coming from the waste water of the public market.

In support of the structure, engineers of the city recommended to the city mayor to fill up both sides of the box culvert so it can withstand big waves, along with the construction of a wave deflector like that of Pantawan 1, to protect the lives of people in Tinago including the city’s properties.

VISIONARY ACT

As a visionary mayor, Remollo thought it would be good for the city to widen and utilize the open spaces as venue for sports competitions, local, domestic and international events.

It is for this reason that it has applied for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 7, which was approved by regional director Engr.William Cunado just this month.

PURELY ADMINISTRATIVE

The mayor made it clear that the ECC application is not only an administrative requirement, but can help dispel the wrong notion escalated by “alarmists” and those who claim to be environmentalists.

Because pf this, even before Phase 2 can start, it already has an approved ECC. Phase 1 had a budget of P12 million more or less and the city will be requesting the city council for additional budget for phase 2 to commence.

COMPLAINT SELECTIVE

He lamented the fact that several environmental projects in the past didn’t catch the attention of so called environmentalists like the construction of the waste water treatment facility at the city Quezon Park which was destroyed by typhoon Sendong; the reclamation of 3,000 square meters more or less of land in Canday-ong where the elementary school is situated; and the reclamation and road widening (wave reflector) of the coastal area from Piapi going to the Silliman University beach in Bantayan, including the boulevard extension.

As far as he can remember, Remollo said the socalled environmentalists were mum on these projects in the past so he is surprised by the negative reactions when what he is doing is just similar to the previous projects, like the wave deflector project to protect lives and properties.

CITY GOT ECC FINE

Now that the ECC is approved, the city mayor is requesting everyone especially those opposed to this project to respect the document. He also hopes his detractors set aside politics and buckle down to work.

Remollo made it clear he is not blaiming past administrations but would not want to be referred to as “Johnny come lately” so he is proactive. He said his administration will not wait for big waves to batter the shores of Dumaguete or calamities to come, thus, shoreline protection projects are being implemented.

Even if the CDO is unofficial, Remollo said his administration has complied with all the requirements listed in the alleged document and submitted the same to concerned agencies in government.

SHOW PROOF

To date, the mayor is yet to hear proof that what he is doing is harmful to the environment, that it can disfigure the boulevard, that it will result to tsunamis, or will endanger the lives of residents in the Poblacion baragays if the project will come to fruition.