Malangas, Zamboanga Sibugay – The municipal government had embarked on a multi-million boulevard project to both serve as a tourist attraction and, at the same time, mitigate other human-induced pressures on the coastal environment. Some people, however, have raised the alarm that the “ambitious” project could pose a “danger to the settlers” in the area.
The four-lane boulevard along Bunker Kigay, this town is part of the envisioned Paseo Malangas-Malangas Boulevard “Bay Walk Leisure Park and Resort,” which is touted as the “grandest of all major projects” of Mayor Marcelo Baquial, Jr. based on the Comprehensive Development Plan obtained by Mindanao Sun.
The project, while mainly a tourist attraction, is also “part of the environmental protection,” the mayor said in an interview.
Baquial said the area under development is part of the Dumanquillas Bay protected area. The mayor was referring to the Dumanquillas Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape (DBPLS) which was established on August 10, 1999 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No.158, pursuant to the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) Act.
The DBPLS, with an area of 25,948 hectares covers the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur.
It comprises the coastal waters of six municipalities: Margosatubig, Lapuyan, Kumalarang, and Vincenzo Sagun in Zamboanga del Sur, and Buug and Malangas, this province.
Baquial said his administration has been working closely with the people in the area to keep the coastal area clean.
One of the issues, he said, was health and sanitation.
“We gave the residents toilet bowls so that the coastal area will be kept clean but they did not use it,” the mayor claimed.
Almost 100 families live near the cove of the area. These families, according to a source who refused to be named, stand to be adversely affected by the project.
“Our worry is when rainy season comes. These almost 100 houses will be inundated because the natural flow of the creek is hampered with the construction of the four-lane road,” the source added.
The mayor, however, denied the allegation.
“It is not true. Part of the project is to construct a man-made canal to serve as the waterway of rainwater,” Baquial explained.
The project, according to the mayor, has even helped “protect these families” from the changing season of the sea because the four-lane boulevard serves as the protection for them.
“We ensure that these families won’t be adversely affected by the project because we don’t want to sacrifice the welfare of the people because of the project,” he said.
There are six families who are directly affected by the project, he admitted.
“But I offered them a titled lot for each family within my own land nearby,” he claimed, adding: “I even gave P100,000 each to rebuild their houses in their new lots.”
The mayor had acknowledged that the families living at the cove will have a problem with sanitation if “they will continue to refuse to have their own toilets.”
In implementing the project, the mayor said: “We are trying to save the area from further degradation and destruction.”
The regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-9), in its website, has pointed out that “over the past decades, the DBPLS has been subjected to severe human-induced pressures, such as encroachment, overexploitation of resources and destructive activities.”
“Unless immediate protection and conservation actions are undertaken, the condition of DBPLS will worsen and the trend of degradation may become irreversible,” it added.
“As far I am concerned, we have complied with all the requirements before we embark on the project,” the mayor said.
The project, he explained, had been approved by the Municipal Development Council and the Sangguniang Bayan, adding that “all necessary requirements and clearances had been complied with.”
“We have our environmental clearance from PAMB (Protected Area Management Board),” he revealed.
Being part of the protected area, the mayor asserted, PAMB has the jurisdiction over the project and not the Environmental Management Bureau under DENR.
“The boulevard does not destroy the area but it helps protect it from further degradation,” he said.
There are people who are trying “to politicize the project,” he admitted. He did not name names, however.
“But I am ready to answer all the complaints if there are,” he concluded. (Antonio Manaytay-Mindanao Sun)