Win-win solution for completion of eco-tourism project in Lingayen proposed

February 21, 2012 11:43 am 

By Leonardo V. Micua

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan, Feb. 21 — A win-win solution was proposed in the ongoing construction of a proposed eco-tourism zone in Lingayen to strike a happy balance between environment and development and remove the only obstacle for the completion of the project.

The proposal was made by Board Member Ranjit Ramos Shahani of the 6th district of Pangasinan, the lone oppositionist in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, in a privilege speech on Monday where he extended his all-out support to the project for as long as it will not affect the eco-system in the area.

Shahani, nephew of former President Fidel V. Ramos, clarified he is supportive of the project because this is the fulfillment of the dream of his uncle who issued Presidential Proclamation No. 1258 in June 1998 setting aside a 284-hectare land in western Lingayen as an eco-tourism zone.

“We support the governor (Amado Espino Jr.) in his goal to speed up the eco-tourism project as envisioned by FVR which is a sine quo non to tap investors. Ituloy po natin ang golf course (We will push through the golf course),” he enjoined.

But he said these projects should not be at the expense of the environment and the livelihood of the people of Lingayen.

Among the suggestions of Shahani include the setting back of the proposed 18-hole golf course inland to the designated eco-tourism area in order to save the pristine beauty of the beach.

Oppositors of the project filed a complaint before the Ombudsman against top officials of the province as they thought there is already an ongoing mining of black sand in their area.

They accused some provincial officials of conniving with Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Corporation and later its sister company, Xypher Builders Inc., of doing black sand mining activity in the beaches of Barangays Sabangan, Estanza, Malimpuec and Capandan in Lingayen.

However, Shahani clarified he was not a party to the complaint filed by residents of Lingayen before the Ombudsman nor was Archbishop Socrates Villegas was involved.

It was Archbishop Villegas who hosted a meeting between officials of the provincial government and the oppositors at his chancery in Dagupan City last February 15 that recommended, among others, that the province must adhere to the cease and desist order (CDO) on the project issued by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

Shahani said the provincial government, represented by Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan and Alvin Bigay, chair of the Provincial Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Office, who attended the meeting, vowed to respect the CDO.

The board member said the CDO must be respected until after the conduct of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which would be its basis on whether or not it will issue Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

The meeting also recommended the removal of the separator machine as, according to Shahani, residents of the four villages can never be at peace unless the machine is there, to make sure that there is no further black sand extraction while the CDO is in effect.

Following their meeting before Archbishop Villegas and as an aftermath of the CDO, the provincial government and the oppositors agreed to observe a ceasefire.

At the same time, Shahani revealed a House of Representatives resolution filed by partylist Congressman Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna, directing the Committee on Natural Resources to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation on the alleged sand mining operations that are adversely affecting the foreshore land in Pangasinan, Cagayan and other provinces.

In his privilege speech, Shahani said the provincial government cannot feign ignorance over the requirement of ECC because this is basic in any environmentally-critical projects such as the golf course and eco-tourism project, including the extraction of black sand.

The provincial government, through Provincial Administrator Baraan, however, maintained that no mining activity is being done in the area as the extraction of black sand is only incidental to the construction of the golf course.

Baraan said this mineral is being removed to allow the growth of greens, plants and trees in the proposed fairway.

"I do agree on the governor's good faith and therefore call upon all the members of this august body to join hands with the governor so that this project can be realized," Shahani said.

But as the lone opposition in the SP belonging to the Liberal Party, Shahani said he will cooperate with the executive "case to case, principle to principle and issue to issue" to restore check and balance and preserve democracy. (PNA)

LDV/lvm/rma

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