Condo in Forest Reserve Render Laws Protecting Environment, IP Rights a Failure

Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 10, April 13-19, 2008

In response to SBMA Administrator Areza’s claims that “there are no grounds to stop the condominium project of Hanjin Heavy Industry in Subic forest reserve area”, Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network today cited three (3) reasons why said project must be scrapped.

Firstly, it is ecologically destructive, as the project stands to impact on the Subic Forest Reserve Area, one of the few remaining forest reserve areas in the country. More importantly, the area in question boasts of high biodiversity, containing approximately 15 percent of the bird species in Luzon, 10,000 fruit bat colonies and 27 endemic vertebrate species. In addition, disturbances to the Subic Forest ecosystem will affect 157 hectares of mangrove areas located in the Central Luzon region.

This is unfortunate as the Philippine forest is in critical stage, with 2004 data showing that the country only has 14 -18 percent forest cover left. This is way below the 54 percent forest cover standard for a tropical country to remain ecologically stable. In such a condition, each remaining forest cover must be protected.

Secondly, there is a glaring lack of consultation with the members of the affected communities, especially the Aeta indigenous group which had been occupying the area for centuries. Since the project area encroaches on parts of their ancestral domain, the Aetas possess the right to be consulted about possible projects to be implemented in the site.

Finally, the project illustrates the outright sale of national patrimony. Hanjin does not deserve a special treatment from the Arroyo administration to be allowed to enter an ecologically critical and protected area? A foreign company was easily given the right to own and control our forest land.

The government continues to justify that the project followed the legal requirements. Given this is true, it means we can expect more projects like the Hanjin condominium to encroach in our environmentally critical areas and ancestral domain of our indigenous people. More so, laws, which aim to protect the environment and promote the rights of the indigenous people such as National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) and Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), prove to be a failure. Posted by Bulatlat

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