UNFAVORABLE ODDS. Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Jonas Leones says during the Laging Handa public briefing on Friday (May 27, 2022) that proponents of the Coron reclamation project would face unfavorable odds should they secure an environmental compliance certificate after the violations made in the project. Leones said it has been more than five years since the proponent sent them a report. (Screengrab) 

MANILA – Granting renewal or approval for the reapplication of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) is now highly unlikely for Coron’s reclamation project, a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) official said Friday.

In the Laging Handa public briefing, DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones said Palawan’s provincial government may have to pass through the eye of a needle, should they vie for ECC after its cancellation.

“Because of what they have done, they will definitely have a hard time to renew or apply for ECC. However, the payment of penalties is their obligation, but the reapplication and for them to expect DENR to issue yet another permit, I think they would have to go (through) a needle hole because of the violations made in this project,” Leones said in Filipino.

All reclamation activities in Coron have been suspended, after reports of significant violations allegedly committed by the proponent.

These violations include failure to submit reports for more than five years, lack of updates despite significant progress on the 48-hectare area, and worse, the alleged destruction of marine ecosystems.

“When they started the reclamation, it was okay. It’s somehow slow, but our investigating team noticed when we went there, we were all surprised that the reclamation seemed fast-tracked,” he said in Filipino.

Leones explained that before a full-blast reclamation, proponents strictly need to secure area clearance, a clearance issued by the DENR that should be submitted to the Philippine Reclamation Authority.

The DENR, meanwhile, admitted there was a lapse on their regional end, considering the pandemic concerns.

“It’s hard to admit, we somehow lacked on looking into that. It seems like, what happened during the pandemic, that’s the time they speed up their (reclamation) when we were so busy addressing the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), there they are deliberately pushing through,” he said in Filipino.

The DENR pledged to continue to seek accountability and hold those liable for the violations.

The department also urged the public to take part in going after violators, especially to conserve the protected areas in the country.

“Nowadays, even text messages, we are acting on it. If there are complaints... we are no longer that strict with formalities on the complaints. If we learn there’s emails, texts, rest assured we will act on it,” Leones said. (PNA)