PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Harry L. Roque spent the weekend in Boracay, one of the country’s top tourist attractions, and held his daily press briefing there on Monday in a move to help resuscitate the island’s economy. “Minabuti naman po namin na kabahagi ng mensahe ng Presidente na buksan ang ekonomiya, lalung-lalo na ang turismo, na magpunta rito at engganyuhin nga ang ating mga kababayan na bumisita muli dito sa Boracay (As part of the President’s message on reopening the economy, especially tourism, we wanted to come here and encourage our countrymen to again visit Boracay),” Mr. Roque said. Boracay reopened on Oct. 1 to domestic tourists, but stringent health protocols are in place, including a required negative RT-PCR test result for all arriving visitors. Governor Florencio T. Miraflores of Aklan, which has jurisdiction over Boracay, said in the same briefing that they are not expecting an immediate influx of tourists given the continued coronavirus threat, but local officials are hoping to give the economy a boost. “We see the health issue,” Mr. Miraflores said in Filipino, “but we also see the economic issue that we need to balance.” — Gillian M. Cortez
Samal-Davao bridge project faces hurdles on both sides
THE PLANNED bridge that will connect Samal island to Davao City is facing hurdles on both ends, with property owners and local government officials questioning the final design’s environmental impact. A Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) official earlier said the alignment presented by consultant Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong Ltd. has been fully evaluated and approved for implementation. “We cannot change anymore the alignment after the long study. The alignment that was identified in the study is final,” DPWH Undersecretary Emil K. Sadain said in September. Lawyer Ramon Edison Batacan said the Rodriguez family, owner of the affected property at the Samal side, will be forced to file a Writ of Kalikasan and administrative cases if DPWH pushes through with the bridge construction without complying with all the legal requirements. Mr. Batacan cited that the ongoing processing of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) bypassed such requirements as clearance from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB). “The ECC process should have included securing a clearance from PAMB of Davao del Norte (which has jurisdiction over Samal) and PAMB of Davao City. This requires a separate public hearing and amendment of the management plan,” he said in a text message. “I’d like to emphasize for fear of being misunderstood that the Rodriguez and Lucas families are not opposed to the implementation of the project… But rather they want to ensure a successful implementation by taking into full consideration the compliance with all the mandatory legal, ecological and environmental requirements of the law,” he added.
On the Davao City side, Councilor Pilar C. Braga also said the issuance of an ECC needs approval from the local government. She also questioned the impact of the structure on declared marine sanctuaries in the city’s Sasa area. She called for a presentation before the city council by the project’s proponents. “The city council in the Davao side is very concerned about the entire issue. We would like to be enlightened with some more information… We would like to have a win-win alignment solution for the environment and the bridge,” Ms. Braga said. On the other hand, Mr. Sadain said in an online public hearing last week that DPWH already secured resolutions from the corresponding development councils of Davao City, Samal, and Davao region. He also cited the study undertaken by Galerio Environmental Consultancy, hired by Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong Ltd., indicating that no significant coral reefs will be affected by the bridge alignment. The P23.04 billion bridge, which will span 2.8 kilometers, will be funded through official development assistance. Start of construction was originally planned to start this year, but has been moved to 2021. — Maya M. Padillo
Magnitude 5.6 earthquake shakes parts of Luzon early Monday morning
A MAGNITUDE 5.6 earthquake rocked parts of southern Luzon early Monday morning, with light intensities felt in parts of Metro Manila. The offshore tremor at 2:16 a.m. was located east of Looc town in Lubang Island, a part of Occidental Mindoro province, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs). Intensity IV was felt in Lubang, Mamburao, Paluan, and Sablayan, all in Occidental Mindoro as well in Tagaytay City in mainland Luzon. Intensity II was reported in the Metro Manila cities of Makati, Quezon, Mandaluyong, Malabon, and Pasig. Phivolcs said no damage was expected but warned of possible aftershocks.