Monday, December 13, 2010

DENR execs face raps over ECC on Balili ash dump site

Five officials of the environment department are facing administrative and criminal complaints for their alleged refusal to release information on activities that endanger the environment and people’s health.

The Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) filed the complaints against Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and four officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7.

The center, among other groups, has questioned the DENR’s reported issuance of an environmental compliance certificate for a coal ash disposal site in the Balili property owned by the Provincial Government in Tinaan, Naga in southern Cebu.

The PEJC questioned before the ombudsman’s office the refusal of some DENR officials to release information and documents, including those related to the Balili transaction.

Lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos and Joan Dulhao said the DENR officials violated the Constitution, Republic Act 9485 (Anti-Red Tape Act), Ra 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) and RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).

”The nation stands to lose its already devastated natural heritage if public officials are continuously not made accountable for their omissions and misdeeds,” the complaint read.

Named respondents to the complaint were DENR 7 executive director Leonardo Sibbaluca; Alan Arranguez, officer-in-charge of the DENR-Environment Management Bureau (EMB); Marcelino Tabuco, DENR-Pollution Control Division chief; and Jay Rosacena of DENR-EMB.

”Respondents’ obstinate, shameless and repeated refusal to deliver the requested documents and to allow complainant to access information of public concern is a gross violation of the State policy of full disclosure and the complainants’ rights to information,” the complaint read.

In a related development, businessman Crisologo Saavedra asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for alleged plunder.

Saavedra, in a letter to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, said there was “prima facie evidence” that the governor committed plunder when she agreed for the province to buy the Balili beachfront property for P98.9 million.

The province will charge a Korean power company for every metric ton of coal ash that it will dump in the property – an arrangement groups like PEJC are opposing.

Governor Garcia said her lawyers are preparing a case against Saavedra for malicious prosecution and perjury.

”He’s attacking like a mad dog. He probably thinks he can file whatever he wants, just to land in the papers. He claims to control what the newspaper headlines will be,” Garcia said in a press conference.

The ombudsman’s office recently found basis to investigate the governor, Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr., the Provincial Board and other officials over the purchase of the nearly 25-hectare Balili property, a large portion of which was later found to be submerged in water.


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