By RITCHE T. SALGADO
CEBU CITY – Gov. Gwendolyn F. Garcia recently apologized to Cebuanos for lack of discretion in purchasing a property that will be used as a dump for coal ash that will be generated by a coal-fired power plant being built in Naga.
The provincial government bought the 25-hectare beach front property in Tinaan, Naga, owned by the heirs of Engineer Luis Balili for P98-million. The amount covers 94,526 square meters of the property: 80,124 square meters submerged in water and 14,402 square meters of mangrove forest.
Garcia said she will take full responsibility for the purchase while promising to recover the amount paid for the portions submerged in water.
After a three-hour closed-door meeting with Vice Governor Gregory Sanchez Jr. and members of the provincial board, Garcia clarified to members of the media that the province bought the property in good faith, as such legal remedies will be sought in order to recover P37.8 million of the P98-million paid.
However, environmental lawyers and advocates believe that what is needed is more than just an apology, but rather the suspension of the coal-ash dump project.
The 200-MW coal-fired power plant being built in Naga and operated by the Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) is expected to be fully-operational by 2011 and the province hopes to generate an extra $1-million from the deal.
In a report published in The FREEMAN (June 14, 2009), Garcia said the province saw the potential of the property as an economic zone, and when the province expressed its interest to purchase it in 2006, nobody questioned the plan.
She added that the decision to purchase the property was brought about by her refusal to be a cynic, believing in the honesty of Cebuanos. She however, clarified that she will keep on believing in Cebuanos, but would be more careful next time.
With these developments, however, Gov. Garcia promised to take legal actions. “I will not stop until any wrongdoing shall be corrected,” she said.
In an interview with Bulatlat, environmental advocate and lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said it is not enough for the governor to apologize to Cebuanos. “There are still plenty of questions that remain unanswered,” she said. “This will not be a deterrent for further incidents like this to happen,” said Ramos.
Ramos revealed that the provincial capitol has not provided them copies of the document pertaining to the purchase of the said property. She said they were given a run around only to come out empty handed.
“The normal process is, if you send a request through mail, an answer would be sent to you also through mail. They are making a fool out of us. I don’t think they have the genuine intention to give us the documents,” she said.
Should the provincial government continue to refuse to give them copies of the documents, Ramos said, they will be forced to file a case with the Civil Service Commission, invoking the Anti-Red Tape Act (RA 9485).