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No public consultation

The public consultation process has been enshrined in our laws with regard to applications for environmental compliance certificates and the exploitation of our natural resources. Even small-time riverbed quarrying is subject to the social acceptance principle to make sure that development is always balanced with public welfare and sustainable utilization of natural resources.

Hence, it came as a big surprise, and shock, for me when I learned that the private port development project of the La Filipina Uygongco Corp. in barangay Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City did not go through a consultation with residents of the area. In an arrogant manner, Atty. Ana Lea Uy, chief legal counsel of the company, told local officials that the endorsement made by the City Council for this project four years ago was compliance to the public consultation requirement.

I’m sorry to tell Atty. Uy that it fails to satisfy that requirement. In fact, the city council should review its passage of the resolution because it was apparently done without much forethought about its long-term effects. The resolution was “muscled through” upon the intervention of a hefty politician from Iloilo City at the height of his power. Now, the short-cut taken by La Filipina Uygongco is coming back at them.

That’s because residents of Barangay Ingore are now up in arms over the anxiety and sleepless nights the hauling operations of the Uygongco company has brought upon them these last two years or so. Apparently, La Filipina Uygongco Corp. must have felt it was immune from public criticism now that they have the permit to operate the port.

That’s a wrong way of viewing the situation. The residents may have kept quiet for a while. But their suffering must have reached breaking point, and with the leadership of former Punong Barangay Ernie Poral, they filed a formal complaint before the City Council regarding the noise and road vibration during hauling operations. The issues raised are valid, and the City Council decided to convene as a Committee of the Whole to hear the complaint.

Several points were unearthed during the hearing on Thursday, July 12, 2018:

  • The company’s application for a Miscellaneous Lease Agreement (MLA) has as yet been approved. This is the legal instrument that would grant La Filipina Uygongco Corp. authority to utilize the 8,447 sqm. covered by its application and build a private port. Now it’s clearly of the cart before the horse. The port is finished and operating while the MLA application is still pending.
  • The PPA had issued a certificate of registration and temporary permit to operate to La Filipina Uygongco Corp. on January 14, 2017. But the port began operations in 2016, according to its own executives who attended the hearing. The company representatives claimed the PPA issued a provisionary permit to operate. They failed to present it during the hearing.
  • Company executive Francis de la Cruz insisted that the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) had given them a passing grade on the noise level in the area. He also said he has slept in the vicinity and didn’t experience sleepless nights. When asked exactly where had he slept, de la Cruz answered that it was inside the port complex itself, and not in the barangay where heavy trucks rumbled through the night.
  • A DENR official said just recently, Secretary Roy Cimatu had issued a policy that nobody will be allowed to enter an area subject of an MLA application until such time that it is approved. The company insisted that it was already given provisional authority to enter and develop their port.
  • And most important of all, this project obtained the requirements for the construction and operation WITHOUT PUBLIC CONSULTATION. This is a requirement enshrined in our laws. Just on that basis, I think Secretary Roy Cimatu of DENR should disapprove the MLA application and for the PPA to rescind the permit to operate. The PPA should then take over the operations of the private port. La Filipina Uygongco knew the risks of proceeding without fulfilling the requirements, especially the public consultatoin. It will have to pay for its gamble.

The City Council must take the first step of asserting the rule of law and protecting the welfare of its constituents. I would urge its members to withdraw the endorsement given to the project four years ago which was obtained through political strong-arm tactics. As concession, La Filipina Uygongco can be given preferential rights for docking, but the PPA should run it, and allow other foreign vessels chartered by other companies to dock there.

 

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6-month suspension meted vs. Iloilo City councilor

6-month suspension meted vs. Iloilo City councilor

The Supreme Court of the Philippines Second Division imposed a six-month suspension against Iloilo City councilor Plaridel Nava from the practice of law after he was found guilty of gross misconduct on charges filed by Judge Ofelia Artuz more than seven years ago.

Plaridel Nava is Jed’s Pet

 

Councilor Plaridel Nava wants to prove his loyalty to his master, Jed Patrick E. Mabilog. That’s the reason he snarls at a lot of people who manifest a dislike for Mabilog. That includes this writer. Nava hates me for being critical of Mabilog. He hates me for exposing the anomalies of his master.

Last week, Nava found himself in the epicenter of a giant political quake when a youth volunteer of Rommel Ynion complained to the police in Lapaz how the arrogant councilor accosted him for coordinating a “libre sakay” activity in Lapuz.

The volunteer, Aljun Rodriguez, said he was riding a Lapuz-bound jeepney to provide “libre sakay” to about a dozen passengers when Nava showed up near Jalandoni Estate and asked him why he was engaging in that activity.

When local radio stations tried to reach him for his comment that night, Nava was nowhere to be found. It was only the following morning that he found the courage to answer questions from the broadcast media.

As expected, Nava denied having accosted Aljun Rodriguez. He was somewhere else, he said. How could that happen when at the time of the alleged encounter, he was more than 5 kilomters away?

But a lie never really takes long to be unmasked. Aksyon Radyo’s John Paul Tia, using skillful interrogatory questions, made a barangay captain who supposedly could vouch for Nava’s presence there confess that there was a lengthy lull in which the councilor’s whereabouts could not be accounted for.

Nava blames this writer for allegedly spinning lies about his involvement in oppressive acts like that. He claims all the negative stories about him were manufactured.

Oh, really?

Did I make up the story of a trampoline activity center manager who was mauled inside the SM City Mall last December 25 by Nava and his bodyguards?

No.

Did I have any participation in a young basketball player’s complaint in Mandurriao that Nava and his bodyguards threatened him after the councilor could not score a point against him?

No.

Did I ask Kerker Hierro and employees in the Hall of Justice to weave a story about Nava pulling a handgun outside a courtroom and threatened to shoot the husband of his alleged ex-paramour?

No.

Did I concoct that report in the local media about a collector of RUSI Marketing who tried to retrieve a motorcycle bought by Nava after the latter failed to settle the past due amortizations?

No.

There are many more incidents in which Nava was pinpointed as the man who either mauled or threatened ordinary people.

By his own admission, Nava said he won’t hesitate to hurt anybody who embarrasses him or makes fun of him. The words came from his own mouth.

Nava boasted that at least, he hasn’t been charged before the Ombudsman for corruption.

I guess that he feels good that he mauls people, but hasn’t been dragged in corruption cases. That makes his boss, Mabilog, a bad guy in his own language. Mabilog is facing more than two dozen Ombudsman cases.

One thing is clear: Nava likes to throw his weight around, especially when his bodyguards, Rex delos Reyes and “Rambo” Demonteverde, are around.

That’s why I’d caution people who met him on the street not to laugh or even smile, because he won’t hesitate to land a punch or a kick over a perceived slight.

Warlord

Among elected public officials in Iloilo, councilor Plaridel Nava is the only one who publicly displays notorious characters as personal bodyguards. That can only serve one purpose: to instill fear in those who might dare oppose him, or earn his ire. But what is more bothersome is that City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog apparently encourages him to do that. Mabilog has come to depend on Nava as his pillar in politics. He routinely designates Nava to serve as OIC-mayor when he travels outside Iloilo City. Nava is number twelve in the council. That’s not because of outstanding talents or abilities. Nava always takes care of Mabilog’s enemies, that’s why. Mabilog sees no problem in Nava being a warlord for as long as he can deliver the goods.