Remember that Mt. Guiting-guiting is Sibuyanon’s remaining terrestrial life-support system. If we attempt to destruct its ecological balance without proper scientific and sociological bases under the principles of sustainable development, we will all suffer the consequences.
Bayay Sibuyanon expresses grave environmental concern on the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA) inclusion of the construction of Magdiwang-San Fernando National Road, Cross Country Road leading to Magdiwang Port in the amount of Php 95,071,799.50. An invitation to bid was posted on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) website.
The implementation of this project will be in contrary to the General Provisions of the 2018 GAA, specifically Section 26 (c) which says: “The planning and construction of all infrastructure projects to be implemented within the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) are done in a way that eliminates and minimizes the risk of biodiversity loss while the specifications thereon are in accordance with those determined by DPWH, in coordination with DENR. Major infrastructure projects may only be taken in said areas if intended to enhance biodiversity.”
Proponents of this project may argue on the trade and economic benefits of the Cross Country Road; however, it must be considered seriously that it will traverse Mt. Guiting-guiting Natural Park which is a protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 746 signed by former President Fidel V. Ramos in 1996.
Be it known that Bayay Sibuyanon is not against development but shall continue to promote and adhere to the targets and indicators of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable development and precautionary principles must always be considered in implementing projects in ecologically sensitive and disaster prone areas.
The organization, therefore, recommends the following:
1. The project feasibility study must be disclosed to the people in full transparency.
2. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) must be consulted.
3. Mt. Guiting-guiting Natural Park’s Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) must convene immediately to address this issue.
4. A Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA), Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystems Services (WAVES) must be conducted.
The ‘Priority Sites for Conservation in the Philippines: Key Biodiversity Areas’ document by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), now BMB, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) exposes that there are one critically endangered, four endangered, and eight vulnerable species of biodiversity in Mt. Guiting-guiting Natural Park, which includes the endangered Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat, Nyctimene rabori, and a vulnerable Sibuyan pitcher plant, Nepenthes sibuyanensis.
Almost every year, new biological species are being discovered. In 2008, a new species of stick insect has been discovered, the Pharnacia magdiwang. In 2010, a new species of shrew has been documented, Crocidura ninoyi. Gekko coi or Leonard’s Forest Gecko, named after famous taxonomist Leonardo Co, was known in 2011. And in 2012, a new owl species has been found, Ninox hilippensis spilonota; in 2014 a pitcher plant named after our martyr Armin Marin, Nepenthes armin. In the same year, a rare endemic species of a tree skink Lipinia vulcania was recorded and a new species of lizard called Pseudogekko isapa sp.
We ask these questions:
How many kilometers? Concrete or dirt road?
Would it affect the protected area? Would it make the protected area vulnerable and exposed to abuse like mining (small or large) and logging? How many trees would be cut?
Is disaster risk reduction and management plan required for this project? How susceptible to landslide is the area?
How would we strike the balance between environmental sustainability and development?