August 11, 2022

Bicol Express News

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LGU Gubat reacts to online petition “Save the Coast of Gubat Bay, Sorsogon” at CHANGE.ORG

Photo: LGU Gubat Sorsogon

Petition-rocked Local Government of Gubat, Sorsogon, made public its answer to the online petition posted in CHANGE.ORG, which is protesting the proposed Coastal Road Project which might harm the coastal and mangrove eco-system and bio-diversity.

Citizen Allan Espallardo started on December 2, 2021 the online petition, “Save the Coast of Gubat Bay, Sorsogon,” at CHANGE.ORG .

As of Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 223 signatures were generated in the online petition, and the numbers are expected to go higher.

LGU-Gubat said the Coastal Road Project in Barangay Cogon is a project of the National Government that will be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Regional Office.

The Panganiban Mangrove Boardwalk in Gubat, Sorsogon. Photo: Gubatourismo

Just like any government institution, the national government spends its money where its priorities are and is bound by its own guidelines.

This project, as a matter of record, cannot be found in any of the major planning documents of Gubat—Annual Investment Program, Comprehensive Development Plan, and Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

It follows that LGU-Gubat did not propose this project to the Provincial Development Council (PDC).

(The PDC would have forwarded the project to the Regional Development Council, which would have endorsed the same to the National Economic Development Council which, in turn, would have recommended it to the Department of Budget and Management for consolidation into the National Expenditure Program to be submitted to Congress for inclusion in the national budget.)

LGU-Gubat is committed to preserving its environment and its natural resources, as it envisions itself as a center of agro-ecotourism whose base is coastal tourism.

There is no way it would willfully destroy its natural resources, from which many of its constituents draw their food and income.

In fact, it has implemented various interventions for the preservation of its environment and its natural resources: establishment and management of marine protected areas; Gubat sa Gubat (forest development, mangrove protection and rehabilitation, development of green spaces); watershed development; promotion of intercropping and use of climate-resilient variety crops; promotion of sustainable farming and fishing methods; promotion of alternative land-based livelihood sources to minimize fishing pressure; community empowerment; release of gravid crabs and trapped turtles to the wild; Mararag River dredging and desilting; provision of financial and other forms of support to
organizations that care for the environment like the Gubat Sorsogon Surfriders Association, Inc. and Gubat, Inc.; and the enhancement of social capital.

It has also made initiatives to enhance the livelihood of its people: danggit-making in Balud del Sur, Balud del Norte and Cota na Daco; Tulay sa Tibo (partnered with ABS-CBN, SunLife and a people’s organization in Panganiban); provision of seaweed propagules and other materials for seaweed production in Bagacay; provision of boats to fisherfolks; provision of loans to qualified fisherfolk beneficiaries; provision of free insurance to seaweed farms, upland fishponds and bancas; and provision of tilapia fingerlings for
tilapia production in upland areas.

In line with this, LGU-Gubat wrote the Department of Tourism for DPWH to take into consideration the planned municipal multi-species hatchery, the planned tourism development, and the proposed declaration of the coast along Cogon (including Kalayukay Beach) as a sustainable tourism area based on the 2021-2029 Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Moreover, we also demanded the project implementer that this project should be in conformity with existing national and local policies, priorities, plans, and strategies; and the project is in accordance with environmental and social safeguards.

The coastal road project, as per the project layout furnished by DPWH ROV (see infographic), is designed to be constructed on land and neither on the shore of nor on the sea off Barangay Cogon (except for the portion that will connect to the bridge that will be built over the estuary where Mararag River meets the sea). The road will also definitely avoid the mangrove area.

Therefore, concerns about seashore and mangrove destruction are unfounded.

The road, on the contrary, could prove to be beneficial.

Elevated at a minimum height of 2.97 meters, it could protect the residents of Cogon against tsunami and storm surge, two hazards which Cogon is at high risk to.

The coastal road could, in truth, SAVE LIVES.

We will ensure that the environmental, social, and economic impacts of this project will be kept to a minimum.

But, thank you, for reminding us of our mission and mandate of taking care of our environment and natural resources and of focusing on the livelihood of our people as a means to improving their lives!