“Gina’s reasoning can very well be this: I can break the law because I am Gina Lopez. But the PCSD mandate under the SEP Act of 1992 is clear. We will enforce it, because it is our legal duty, and most of all, because it is the moral thing to do.”
by Ducky Paredes
Because I have been treating of the issue of Palawan and the incursions in its environment by a Manila-based firm, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) requested that their answer to Gina Lopez of ABS Foundation be used in my column. Here is the PCSD’s letter in full:
“Gina Lopez is thinking and acting strange these days, as evidenced by her letter to the Inquirer (’Puzzling PCSD Actuations’). In trying to gloss over the charge that her foundation, ABS Foundation, illegally cut mature trees in Brooke’s Point to make way for her Eco-Academy project, Ms. Lopez has resorted to squid tactics at the very least, and to lies at the very heart of her argument.
“First, she claims to be a ‘protector of the environment’, yet she forgot to mention that her project in Sabsaban (Brooke’s Point) sits on land cleared of old trees for which a complaint was filed against the project by tribal leaders before the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Adjudication Board. The tribal leaders’ evidence is overwhelming: pictures and videos—which don’t lie about the cutting of trees without permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and SEP Clearance from the PCSD. Gina, who has styled herself as the protector of Palawan, now pretends not to know of this violation. We ask her, ‘Oh really? Now she must tell Palawenos the truth. Otherwise, she will be branded the way Manny Pangilinan did when he told her at a recent forum on mining: ‘Gina, you are lying!’
“Second, she has maligned the PSCD as anti-people. Using the argument that her project ‘provides sustainable livelihood for the people while taking care of the enviroment,’ she says it ‘coincides with the goal of the PCSD’. This is a totally distorted view, which she promotes at the expense of honest and hardworking Palawenos. The ABS Foundation, of which she is Managing Director, violated the SEP law. How can a good thing emanate from something intrinsically evil to the environment? Gina, you must tell the truth to Palawenos, because you cannot continue to hide behind distorted arguments.
“Third, the PCSD intervened because of the strong opposition to the project by the IPs. Let me be clear. The PCSD is not against the project. But it can not tolerate the continuance of a project without first complying with existing rules. To quote from the teleserye ‘Walang Hanggan’ of ABS-CBN July 27 episode, the lola (Susan Roces) scolding the lead actor Daniel (Coco Martin) yelling ‘Gaano man kabusilak ng iyong hangarin subalit kung hindi tama ang iyong pamamaraan, ito ay MALI pa rin…MALI!’.
“The Adjudication Board has been fair to Gina. It has dealt only with the charge she is facing, which is violation of PCSD Administrative Order # 6. She operated the project without SEP Clearance. The charge of cutting trees without IP consent was lodged by the IP before the DENR and the NCIP as these are the appropriate agencies to handle such cases.
“Ms. Lopez also wrote, ‘There is no cease and desist order issued against Brooke’s Point Eco-Academy. In fact, we have had our first management committee meeting chaired by the municipal mayor xxx’. Is she confirming that the project is still operating? This would mean then that she is in continuous violation of PCSD Admin Order No. 6. She has not complied with the SEP clearance, which is basic. Gina’s reasoning can very well be this: I can break the law because I am Gina Lopez. But the PCSD mandate under the SEP Act of 1992 is clear. We will enforce it, because it is our legal duty, and most of all, because it is the moral thing to do.
“The next PAB hearing is set this month. We suggest that Ms. Lopez make a personal appearance there.
“In her closing lines, Ms. Lopez also sarcastically wrote ‘It is clear that the current crop of PCSD leaders has lost their right to govern. Instead of fulfilling their mandate, they are even directly going against it. Where is their credibility when they want to stop a project that is unselfishly helping 100 families, protecting the forests of Mount Matalingahan—while the mining on top of the rice fields of Palawan continues unabated.’
“This is a fevered mind speaking and ranting. Let’s restore sanity to the arguments in this instant case.” — Romeo B. Dorado, OIC, Executive Director, PCSDS
* * *
While, the water concessionaires of Metro Mania — Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services — were awarded before the time of the present President PPP — Public-Private Partnership program of the present– the way that the privateer companies are doing their fees (and the government’s seeming acquiesence) makes one wonder if this sort of privatization fits into that Daang Matuwid concept that seems to be moving away from this presidency.
Here’s our biff as consumers — Do you know that our two water distributors, Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services, are collecting from all of us, the consumers, the future costs of two multibillion-peso projects, the P45.3-billion Laiban Dam and the P5.4-billion Angat Dam Irrigation Replacement Project?
These fees are included in our monthly water bills although Manila Water and Maynilad have not yet incurred them. Their consumers are paying in advance for projects that are still on paper, not even started yet! They have not yet spent a centavo; yet, they are already collecting from us! Instead of their making the investment, they are charging their customers the future cost of the investment without even telling us anything!
And, do you know what? They collect from their consumers even as the two projects have already been abandoned! Laiban Dam has been cancelled and abandoned! and Angat Dam has been temporarily shelved — yet, the collection goes on!
What makes it worse is that the projects have been discontinued and, in the case of the Laiban Dam, totally and officially cancelled and abandoned.
As of now, the two privateers (another name pirate) have collected P6 billion! The daring duo continue to collect their booty.
The water Regulatory Office (RO) says these fees are unwarranted and illegal, and recommend to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) that the collections be refunded to consumers. The MWSS board of trustees has told the two to refund these unwarranted collections to their consumers.
But Maynilad and Manila Water have not done so.
Thus, a consumer group that calls itself the Water for All Refund Movement demands that the water pirates immediately refund the P6 billion and stop collecting these unwarranted fees. So far, the concessionaires have refused.
Our one hope is the Supreme Court, which ruled, that the Meralco refund their accumulated “overcollections” to their customers!
Where would we be without entities like the Water for All Refund Movement and the Supreme Court?
# # # #
hvp 08.08.12Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org