Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, January 16, 2009

DENR: Reports on tree-cutting exaggerated

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Reports on the cutting of trees in this free port are exaggerated.

So declared Environment Secretary Lito Atienza when he visited the controversial site of the proposed Ocean 9 hotel-casino project here on Wednesday.

Inspecting the trees at the 2-hectare project site here with officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), officials of project proponent Grand Utopia Inc. and members of the media, Atienza noted that contrary to some published reports, the trees at the project site had remained intact all along.

“We should stick to the truth,” Atienza said.

“They said trees have been cut here, so where are those cut trees?” Atienza wondered aloud during the inspection.

“A lot of reports that came out in the newspapers now turn out to be inaccurate and exaggerated,” he also told the media.

Atienza inspected the project site exactly a week after announcing that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would now control the issuance of environmental permits in this free port—a task previously delegated to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) under a memorandum of agreement between the two agencies.

In revoking the agreement, Atienza noted among others that the SBMA has been criticized lately because of the allegations, notably by architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr., that some 300 trees would be destroyed to make way for the hotel-casino project.

Some reports also alleged that some “century-old trees” have been cut in the site, which was sometimes described as “old-growth forest.”

But Wednesday’s visit apparently convinced Atienza that the allegations were unfounded.

Atienza said activism for the environment is good. “But, of course, we have to stick to reality and the truth,” he said.

Noting Palafox’s avowed passion for the environment, Atienza told the media that he and Palafox “could work together.”

“At this point, personally, I can see that no trees were cut,” Atienza declared.

“It is very important that the whole country should know that no trees have been cut in SBMA up to now,” he also assured SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga and SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, who joined him in the inspection.

“If there were century-old trees here, we should see them now; but there’s none,” Atienza said. “This is a reclaimed area during the US Navy days, so it’s impossible for century-old trees to be here,” he added.

At the same time, Atienza told officials of Grand Utopia to cooperate with the DENR to resolve the controversy regarding the trees at the project site.

“Let’s work together for a win-win solution,” Atienza told Ocean 9 managing director Louis Joong-Moon Choi.

He said that while Ocean 9 “is a very good project” since it will create some 5,000 jobs once operational, the proponent should also be sensitive to local issues, particularly those environment-related.

Atienza suggested that Grand Utopia should redesign the $120-million project to incorporate ”mature trees” in the project site.

“You can use the [existing] trees to add ambiance to the project,” he said, noting that world-class tourism projects spend millions of dollars to incorporate trees in their design.

He also directed DENR field officers to conduct tests at the project site to determine whether some trees have really been poisoned, as insinuated by Palafox and other critics of the project.

Atienza said that results of the soil tests may be available after a week.

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1 Comments:

  • This area and these trees in particular were so lush and green no too long ago. Trust me this trees were poisoned when they began erecting the white fences ou now see there.

    By Anonymous I love subic, at 1/20/2009 8:52 AM  

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