Passionist Center – Justice, Peace and
Integrity of Creation, Inc. (PC-JPIC)
General Santos City
27 May 2014
Contact Person : Fr. Rey Ondap, CP
cellphone no. 0919-2430675
Coral reefs in Kamanga, Maasim, in Sarangani Bay, destroyed in the course of construction activities for the unloading pier for the coal-fired power plant of Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC) got an assist today through the filing of an environmental suit before the Regional Trial Court in Sarangani Province.
The suit which asked for an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) under the Rules of Procedure on Environmental Cases issued by the Supreme Court in April 2010, was filed by Sr. Susan O. Bolanio, Oblates of Notre Dame (OND) and Fr. Rey Carvyn Ondap, CP, Executive Director of the Passionist Center – Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Inc., a newly-organized non-stock corporation advocating for justice, peace and the integrity of creation based in General Santos City.
The complaint prayed that the Regional Trial Court issue an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) :
1. Putting an immediate STOP to the construction activity of the DEFENDANTS (Sarangani Energy Corporation, EEI Corporation and Daelim Indl Co. Ltd (Philippines)) that resulted in the damage to the corals and elements of the marine ecosystem in the Kamanga-Tinoto wall part of Sarangani Bay;
2. Mandating the concerned agencies including the Office of the Governor and the Protected Area Management Board of the SARANGANI PROTECTED SEASCAPE to conduct a comprehensive survey of the damage to the ecosystem, and determine the number and species of corals and other marine specimens including benthic organisms damaged and/or destroyed;
3. Resuming the construction activities only when the necessary rehabilitation and restoration measures are effectively put in place and has complied with the mandate of Presidential Decree 1198 restoring the site to their ORIGINAL condition and the conditions that will be set by the Protected Area Management Board of the Sarangani Seascape;
4. Determine the amount of actual, nominal and exemplary damages incurred by the construction activity and determine its monetary value which amount will be assessed and charged to the DEFENDANTS jointly and severally.
The suit relied on the judicial affidavit executed by John Heitz, a long-time resident of SOCSARGEN and a diver who helped establish a marine protected area near the construction site and helped, along with other diving enthusiasts, the local government unit as well as the company managing the construction site, in setting up the various artificial reef domes to help revitalize the marine ecosystem in the area.
He also brought to the attention of the Provincial Government of Sarangani the destruction inflicted on the coral reefs of the Kamanga-Timuan wall by EEI Corporation, the engineering company contracted by the coal-fired power plant operator, but was told by an official in the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) to file a complaint.
Sarangani Governor Steve Solon recently dispatched a team of divers to survey the site, he is yet to issue any statement about the findings of the group.
Given the extreme urgency of the situation that the corals are already destroyed, the suit should, in effect, strengthen the hand of the authorities to take decisive action, and the Regional Trial Court may, in its discretion, issue already an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) either ex parte or temporarily, so that the construction activities will be stopped and the extent of the damage and destruction to be corals be independently assessed and remedial/restoration measures established.