Government Should Stop Destructive Panglao Reclamation Proposal

By Sunday Post
 
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol virtually "drove the final nail to the coffin" of the Panglao reclamation plan in a protracted battle by a proponent to rise above partisan consideration as the law-making body deliberated the project's viability in economic and political terms.
 
But all efforts of Noris Oculam, main player of the project and the man behind Oasis Leisure Islands and Development Inc. (OLIDI), came to naught when the highly-partisan SP wrote finis to his pet project. In his appeal to SP, Oculam sought the conduct of an environmental study to find out if it affected economically and environmentally all stakeholders in the project. Sought for his reaction, Oculam said it was unfortunate that he was caught in the political crossfire of partisan interest. It was widely surmised that what put Oculam in an uncompromising situation as he pushed for the approval of the project was his close association with former governor Erico Aumentado now second district congressman. In fact, the first order of business of the SP committee that delivered the "knockout punch" of OLIDI's reclamation bid, was the cancellation of the joint venture agreement between the proponent and the former governor who represented the province then.
With the fate of his project in limbo Oculam is thinking of resorting to legal means if only to redeem his pet baby from its death bed. In dealing the final blow to the project, the SP approved the three measures recommended by the joint environment-tourism committee contained in report number 2011-03 dated Nov. 29, 2011 during the regular session presided over by Vice-Gov. Concepcion Lim last Friday. It approved a provincial resolution cancelling and/or rescinding through the Governor's office the "Joint Venture Development Agreement entered into with OLIDI." According to the death warrant of the project, the same proposal "presents a clear and present danger to the healthy biodiversity and sensitive marine environment within the offshore area of Panglao Bay," Under the second measure, an authority was given to the governor's office to "withdraw the application for reclamation filed with the Philippines Reclamation Authority".
 
According to Board Member Abeleon Damalerio, chair of the environment committee, in his joint report, the SP also approved the third resolution "opposing the establishment of any form of reclamation within the shores of Panglao Island,". Damalerio, tourism committee chair Godofreda Tirol, tourism vice chair Romulo Cepedoza and environment committee member Dr. Beinvenido Molina signed the eight- page joint committee report. Board Member Gerardo Garcia did not affix his signature in the report as certified by stenographers Josefina Gulle, Diodora Acedo and attested by committee secretary Romeo Jaum.

Far from over

Oculam, in a phone interview Friday, said that the fight is not over yet, saying OLIDI won't take the issue sitting down. He said the move of the provincial board was expected from the very beginning. He added that he will convene OLIDI's board of directors to tackle the issue and take the necessary steps given the SP ruling.

GROUNDS

SP's junking of the proposed reclamation project was based on lengthy narrative based on legal, social/economic and environmental considerations as reported by Damalerio. Contrary to claims, the SP which described the project as "a juicy proposal," found that it is "grossly disadvantageous transaction since the province has "totally surrendered its environmental and zoning responsibilities" to the project proponent. In addition, the SP said that the province "will be incurring costs" that are not being considered by the proponent. OLIDI, SP said, "is not qualified to undertake" the project since it has no track record being just newly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with capitalization of only Php12 million.
 
SP also relied on the recommendations of the group of concerned Boholanos composed of "physical, economic, political scientists and legal experts," who also expressed opposition to the project. Even before the environmental or feasibility study could take place as requested by the proponent, they have this to say. "We are among those vehemently opposed to such reclamation project, knowing fully well the breadth of its potentially damaging ecological impacts. Its impact on marine biodiversity in the area, not to mention other unforeseen effects because of human interference with the natural sea currents along a narrow channel (in the site, the Panglao Bay alluded to above among our provisos, where said project is proposed to be located) are extremely worrisome."

On legal effects, the SP also argued that the authority given to then governor Aumentado "was only for negotiation." "No subsequent Resolution was passed by the (SP) before for the governor to enter into and sign the JVDA." Hence, it concluded that the JVDA "is unenforceable against the provincial government" and OLIDI "cannot demand from the current administration confirmation of the reclamation phase." SP's opposition to stop the project has reinforced the contention of Panglao lawmakers when the latter passed Municipal Resolution No. 140, 2011, series of 2010 on October 10, 2010, "strongly opposing the establishment of any form of reclamation projects within the municipal waters of Panglao, Bohol," considering that the area where the project is to be undertaken is "haven of coral diversity and a sanctuary of diverse marine resources. Earlier, the past SP ( 2007-2010) had passed provincial Resolution No. 2009-633, "authorizing the then governor Erico Aumentado to represent the provincial government of Bohol and enter into a negotiation for a joint venture and development agreement (JVDA) with the Oasis Leisure Islands Development Inc. on the proposed reclamation project, off Panglao Bay, Panglao, Bohol, provided, however, that the provisions and amendment to the JVDA as proposed by the provincial legal office shall be made an integral part of the same (JVDA)."

This became the basis of the OLIDI to pursue the project even as it is amenable for the conduct first of the feasibility study as required by the afore-quoted Resolution. No. 2009-633. Resolution No. 2009-633 provides Bohol environment policy should be the guiding principle in pursuing the project, including the province's commitment to growth and conservation of its natural resources and compliance with the relevant environmental regulations and other legal pre-requisites. Also, then governor Aumentado said in his letter-endorsement to the SP that "no reclamation activity will be commenced unless appropriate social preparation activities among the stakeholders and affected persons shall have been conducted.' He also pointed out that the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be adhered and Environmental Compliance Certificate issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Bad State of Education in Bohol as Legacy of Aumentado Administration

Bad State of Education in Bohol as Legacy of Aumentado Administration

The state of public education particularly elementary and secondary schools in the province appears to be in sad state even as local officials and stakeholders are largely relying on the national government for help.

The situation in the inadequacy of facilities and lack of funds and teaching force is still hounding public education in the province.

But the report of the Department of Education regional office did not include the true picture of tertiary level being run and funded by the government.

This, maybe, prompted the local officials with the participation of multi-sectoral groups to launch the First Bohol Education Summit held at the Bohol Cultural Center on November 10-11, 2011 in a bid to come up with a right direction and courses of actions towards common agenda in improving the education.

In his power-point presentation before the Summit's participants, DepEd regional director Recaredo Borgonia said that the division of Bohol still needs a total of 218 teachers; 230 classrooms and 71,857 seats. The same is true with city division with six (6) teachers and 18 classrooms and 1,883 seats still lacking.

The report of Borgonia, guest speaker of the Summit, however, did not specify how many classrooms and teachers in the elementary and secondary are needed to fill the gap.

Bohol school division is allocated a total of PhP2.3 billion or PhP2,387,779,000 while the city division, PhP170,401,000 for them to operate in a school year.

Like any other government agencies, personnel services or salaries/wages still got the biggest slice of the budget pie. Bohol and city divisions each has a total of PhP2.1 billion and PhP159,868,000, respectively. Their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures (MOOE) each (province and city) had a total of PhP95.5+ million and PhP6.5+ million, respectively.

The province got only PhP12,778,000 for capital outlay; lump sum basic facilities, PhP128,628,000; PhP14,126,000, school facilities; and PhP15,175,000, water/sanitation facilities. The amount of PhP611,000 is for regular capital outlay; lump sum basic facilities, PhP1,990,000; PhP724,000, school facilities; and PhP705,000, water/sanitation facilities for city division to operate.

The population in terms of learners of basic education, Borgonia said, reaches a total of 262,671. Bohol division's pupils and students totaled 245,574 (elem-178,159 and secondary-67,415) with corresponding total of 6,653 teachers. The city division has 10,431 for elementary and 6,666, high school and 457 teachers (268 – elem. and189 – secondary).

In terms of the number of institutional rooms, Bohol and city count for total of 6,294 and 421, respectively. The province has 1,060 total number of elementary (917) and secondary (143) schools while the city, 24 (17 – elem. and 7 secondary).

Drop-out rates in province's and city's secondary scored high with 5.63% and 5.33%, but very low in elementary with 1.90% and 1.31%, respectively.

In terms of teacher-pupil/student ratio, the province posted one teacher to 32 pupils and 1:39 in elementary and secondary levels. The city with 1:35 and 1:33 in elementary and high school, respectively, the report bared.

Anda, Bohol Best Place in Bohol Island

Anda, Bohol - Feverish preparations are underway as this cape town is to host the first international sports event --- international triathlon --- slated on December 2-4, 2011, said Vice-Mayor Paulino Amper in an exclusive interview last week.

In separate interview, municipal tourism officer-designate Arvin Deligero Rubillos confirmed this, adding that Timex company is one of the sponsors of the event.

Amper said that organizers of the big event have visited here to see for themselves and decided to hold it here after finding that the town offers the ideal arena for the sport said to be the first to be held in the Visayas and Mindanao. He was then reluctant to accede of the holding of the event because of lack of infrastructure and services. But he realized that his may be an opportunity as it will definitely boost the town's tourism promotion for more investments that eventually generate job opportunities.

What worries him most is that the town may not be able to offer and accommodate the influx of participating personalities and visitors due to lack of accommodation services. In fact, he said, some of the beach resorts here have already been fully loaded with reservations ahead of the event schedule. Some of those who failed to booked at the resorts may be accommodated in home-stay at some residence here.

The town located at the easternmost part of the province is home to several low and high-end resorts and scuba shops/resorts established earlier. Among them are Anda White Beach, Flower Beach Resort, Dapdap Resort, Anda Public Beach Resort and dive resorts.

The municipality boasts of its nature-endowed beauty in the kilometric stretch of unspoiled white powdery sand that can equal other places with striking rock formations, tranquil place for vacation and swimming, turtle sanctuary, whale-and-dolphin visits, rich manganese material deposits and recently, the Tarsiers. It has also developed La Manok island of caves and cultural heritage such as the old houses and century stone church and people's hospitality and values.

The municipal officials and townsfolk led by Mayor Angelina Simacio and Amper are rushing the construction of building for restaurant at the public market area and another --- Anda Seafood Market and Restaurant at the public white beach owned by the municipal government to cater the needs of the visitors of the event.

The latter Seafood Restaurant and cottages at the public beach is funded by Senator Chiz Escudero's pork barrel in the amount of PhP500,000 to augment the local funds. Amper said he is confident the construction will be completed just in time for the event.

Bohol Congressman Attacks Reproductive Health (RH) Bill

By JUNE S. BLANCO

Rep. Erico Aumentado (2nd District, Bohol) has exposed House Bill No. 4244, popularly known as the RH Bill, as unconstitutional, inherently infirm, and redundant as it is covered already by 15 laws and executive issuances.

The solon bared his strong opposition against the RH bill during his three-hour interpellation and debate on the controversial measure with Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, the principal author.

The debate between Lagman and Aumentado started Tuesday night and ended Wednesday night, despite the house rules which provide for only a one-hour interpellation.

Aumentado said the bill is unconstitutional as it contravenes the constitutional provision which states that the State "shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn – from conception" because according to scientific studies especially by the United Nations International Agency research on cancer by 21 scientists, contraceptives are carcinogenic –causing cervix, breast and liver cancer, and stroke also, among others.

He also said using contraceptives and intra-uterine devices (IUDs) has imperilled not only the lives of the unborn child but also puts the child at risk of physical deformities and abilities such as being autistic, Mongoloid, harelip, cross-eyed, bow-legged and others that place them at a disadvantage to those who are being born without contraceptives and IUDs.

Aumentado argued that the life of the unborn starts from conception, that is, the fertilization of the ovum, and therefore any abortifacient contraceptive that could cause the expulsion of the child puts the latter at risk of being expelled from the womb of the mother, and therefore violates the constitutional command to protect the unborn starting from its conception.

The other constitutional reason cited by the Bohol legislator as being violated is the provision on the equal protection of the law because the RH bill is biased against the Catholic's accepted birth management, the the natural rhythm method and the Billings ovulation method developed by John and Evelyn Billings with 99.5% effectiveness as validated by the World Health Organization.

Aumentado explained that the bias is clearly shown by the appropriation of ₱3 billion in the General Appropriations Act which would be the starting fund of the RH bill once approved into a law.

He debunked the claim of the bill sponsors that half of the appropriation will be used to promote the Billings ovulation method by citing that the proposed outlay supporting the bill and the government program on reproductive health, family planning, responsible parenting, and the overall target for population control is overwhelmingly for the use of contraceptives, IUDs and condoms which could only fatten the bank accounts of multi-national pharmaceutical companies.

He further said there is no need of depopulating the Philippines because according to the National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB), the trend of the population growth rate has been declining since 2000. In fact, he said, the National Statistics Office analyzed in 2007 that the growth rate of the country is projected to be 1.81% lower than those Lagman cited from 2010 to 2015; 1.64% from 2015 to 2020 and 1.46% for 2020 to 2025.

He also said the NSO study debunks the other claim that the average Filipino household size is 10 or more and will increase without the RH Law. He said the NSO data shows the average household size has been declining even without the RH Law. The household size in 2007 was 4.8% persons lower than the average household size of five persons in 2000.

A heated exchange took place between Aumentado and Lagman when the Bohol solon said the mantra of family planning has been dictated by the United States of America's program to underdeveloped countries as brought out by the report of then State Secretary Kissinger. The mantra on reproductive health, where no less than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, is "Reproductive health necessarily includes abortion," and that there is strong lobby for the passage of the RH Bill into law.

Lagman, per records, vehemently denied the charge, saying that the bill is crafted by Filipino authors without any influence from any foreign power and that there is no lobby to speak of. In fact, he said bluntly, there is no proof of such lobby.

A passionate debate also ensued on the impact of population on poverty. Lagman contended that the Philippines' overpopulation is responsible for the country's very low rating in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) Report.

Danajon Double Barrier Reef

By: JUNE S. BLANCO

THE House Natural Resources Committee has approved the bill seeking to establish the Danajon Double Barrier Reef Natural Park (DDBRNP).

Rep. Erico Aumentado (2nd District, Bohol), author and sponsor of the bill said as a natural park, the DDBRNP will become a protected area.

But, the solon clarified, bill the guarantees freedom of legal fishing and of navigation at all times within the area except across established marine sanctuaries and fish pens or cages. For this purpose, he said, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria) is tasked to establish a 250-meter buffer zone.

It also ensures LGUs abutting the park of shares in future income as eco-tourism facilities shall have been established.

The Region 7 offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR 7) and the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) as well as Namria endorsed the bill. The committee chaired by Rep. Francisco Matugas of Surigao del Norte unanimously approved the bill, subject to the submission by Namria of the natural park's metes and bounds.

The provincial government of Bohol had sent Liza Quirog, provincial agriculturist and now head of the Socio-Economic and Environment Management Cluster, and Larry Pamugas, OIC provincial agriculturist, to represent the province in the committee hearing. However, they arrived after the committee approved the bill due to alleged delay in their flight from Tagbilaran City.

Quirog, however, said the province will submit its position paper on the measure.

Aumentado said the DDBR, being the only documented double barrier reef in Asia, deserves to be preserved and well-protected from illegal fishers and coral poachers because of its rich potential for food security and eco-tourism.

He said from 1948 to 1952, when he was a crew member of the fishing outfit "new look" in the DDBR, the 273-square kilometre marine phenomenon was one of, if not, the richest fishing grounds in the Philippines. He recalled that the usual catch consisted of the high class fish such as badlon, tangigue, mamsa and others.

He lamented that today, the DDBR is being ravaged by illegal fishers using dynamite, trawl, palakaya, and cyanide, among others.

And worst, he said, the coral reefs are being destroyed by poachers, of which recently, some P3 million worth of corals from Bohol seawaters were confiscated by the Cebu Task Force of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia in Punta EngaƱo, Lapulapu City.

He said there is a need to revive the Cebu-Leyte-Cebu-Southern Leyte (Celebosole) Growth Quadrangle for the four provinces to jointly patrol, protect and preserve the DDBR which is surrounded by the four provinces.

The Celebosole component is part of the provisions in the declaration of the DDBR Bill.

The DDBR consists of the Caubian Outer Reef and the Calituban Inner Reef, both of which span the seawaters of the towns of Tubigon, Clarin, Inabanga, Buenavista, Getafe, Bien Unido, Ubay, Pres. Carlos P. Garcia and Talibon in Bohol; Matalom, Bato, Hilongos and Hindang in Leyte; Lapu-Lapu City and Cordova of Cebu and Maasin City of Southern Leyte.