ROUGH CUTS| Stakeholders want involvement

WE ARE happy that the New People’s Army (NPA) has responded accordingly to the goodwill shown by the government under President Rodrigo Dutere when the latter ordered the facilitation of the release of several incarcerated NDF-CPP peace talks consultants.

The rebels’ release late last week of several policemen they have abducted for about two months are clear indications that they believe in the sincerity of the present administration’s desire to put an end to the close to half a century of communist insurgency in the country. And the release of the policemen was on the same day the government and NDF-CPP panels that were doing the first phase of the peace talks in Oslo, Norway signed a declaration that contains the parameters to be followed in the pursuance of a final peace agreement to end the insurgency.

With both the government and the communist rebels reciprocating positively there is enough reason to believe that under the Duterte administration the rebellion that has caused the deaths of thousands of Filipinos and the injuries of even much bigger number could finally be put to an end.

We are hoping that there will be no more spoilers hiding in the crevices of both the government and the rebel organizations so as not to derail the on-going peace negotiations.

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We personally believe there is wisdom in allowing representatives of civil society organizations to be actively involved in the conduct of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the P10 billion bulk water project of the Davao City Water District (DCWD) and the consortium of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. (AEV) and JV Angeles Construction and Development Corp.

Yes, in the words of Ms. Mary Anne Fuertes, executive director of the Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), it is better that the stakeholders are able to present proofs that the project is destructive to, or confirm that it is not going to do damage on the environment.

If representatives of stakeholders are involved in the conduct of the EIA they might be able to see the social cost of undertaking the project and as such they can recommend measures that can help mitigate the potential negative impact to the environment and to the people of the city.

However, we also believe that should the civil society groups be allowed to participate through their designated representatives the City Council and the Watershed Management Council must set the guidelines that will define clearly their responsibility. And there has to be a clear time-table within which the civil society organizations authorized to be part of the EIA study have to submit their observations and/or recommendations.

The stakeholders’ representatives must be made to understand by both the City Council and the WMC that they cannot arrogate unto themselves decisions of delaying their own findings and recommendations. Allowing them to do so would only further delay the project implementation and worsens the water shortage in certain areas of Davao City’s second district.

In other words, if the Apo Agua Infrastructura, Inc., the corporate entity that implements the bulk water project, is to submit to government regulators its EIA on a particular date and the stakeholders observations and recommendations are not yet available, the company should not be compelled to wait so these could be integrated in the EIA as prepared by the Apo Agua-designated study consultant.

Perhaps the City Council and the WMC, as well as the project proponent company could agree to have the stakeholder representatives’ observation and recommendations submitted as documentary attachment.

This way the ball would now be in the hands of the water project regulators whether to give weight to the stakeholders’ observations and recommendations in their action on the EIA. That is, to approve it as submitted by the project proponent or recommend its revision based on the submission of the stakeholders’ representatives.

However, we find it extremely important in deciding to allow stakeholders’ representation in the conduct of the EIA study to thoroughly take stock of the critical issue sought to be addressed by the project and the concern that the civil society groups would want to be looked into before the full implementation of the bulk water project.

As far as the proponent Apo Agua is concerned the bulk water project will help the DCWD address in the long term the already existing problem of lack of potable water supply in a sizeable area of the city that is becoming both a new residential and industrial hub. This problem has long been anticipated and it is already in the city’s midst.

In the case of the civil society organizations, more specifically the environmentalists, they are looking at the possible negative impact of the project to the city’s environment, and subsequently to the city of Davao and its population.

Of course both intentions are for the common good. But which one really is the most immediate and critical? And which of the problems seen is likely to have dire consequences if not addressed soonest?

Let us not forget that even time as an asset, is itself depreciating. And such depreciation can never be recovered.

Posted in Opinion