Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hotel project in Subic to destroy 300 trees - report

A Korean hotel and casino project inside the Freeport zone in Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority threaten the existence of about 300 trees, a television report said Tuesday.

Reporter Kara David said on GMA news 24 Oras that the 300 trees (30 of these are classified as endangered species) would cut off to clear the two hectares area where the Grand Utopia hotel and casino project is supposed to rise.

The report said a local architect Jun Palafox, who was first hired by the Grand Utopia Inc to design the project, decided to back out when he found out that management intended to cut the trees.

“We found out only last October that there was a September confirmation by the Ecology Center of SBMA that the existing usage (of the area) is urban forest. I could also put some building in the urban forest, but you can design it in such a way you can preserved those trees," Palafox said.

The report added that Grand Utopia hired Yamasaki architect, an international firm to design the hotel and casino project, which is said to give employment to 1,000 workers.

“We thought we can be able participate in the design and what’s happening there’s wrong with the procedure. A foreign architect was asked to design the project and for me just to attach my name," according to Palafox.

The management of Grand Utopia admitted getting the service of Yamasaki architect, but denied that the tree would be cut.

“We are not going to cut trees in Subic. We are going to transfer them two blocks away. We are a development not a destroyer," said Eric Park, project proponent.

Park assured that they would replace 15 trees in each tree that they would not be able to save.

“If it is technically impossible to ball out the tress, we will replace each tree with 15 more trees," Park assured.

GMA News has been able to get a copy of a document from the Ecology Center of SMBA indicating that the area where Grand Utopia will be constructed is classified as urban forest.

But SBMA chief Arman Areza defended the project and stressed that the area is identified as commercial zone.

“The existing master plan for that area allows for resort, hotel, entertainment…basta no cutting, transferring we will allow," Areza said.

Construction in the area has not started as the Grand Utopia has not secured yet the environmental compliance certificate of ECC from the Environment department. But the ground breaking ceremony took place recently to which by local officials of Olongapo City attended. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

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