Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Questioning of Hanjin Condo Construction in Subic Forest

Making it to national headline news lately is the Philippine Senate's questioning of the construction of a Hanjin condominium in the Subic rainforest.

Hanjin Group [consisting of Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction (KRXS: 003480), Hanjin Shipping (KRXS: 000700), Hanjin Transportation (KRXS: 002320), Korea Airport Service (KRXS: 005430), Korean Air (KRXS: 003490), Meritz Investment Bank (KRXS: 012420)] has recently endeavored on a condominium project in the forests of the freeport's Cubi-Triboa district. The condos, one towering 22 stories and the other 12 stories, is part of a housing project intended for 182 Korean staff for the Korean conglomerate, stated Jeong Sup Shim, Hanjin's president.

The issue now is whether the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) should step in and re-exert authority over Subic Freeport and immediately revoke the MOA (memorandum of agreement) because it now seems that its partner doesn’t care about the environment. "As a general rule, you can’t do construction work because it’s a protected area. It’s a watershed," former environment chief Antonio Cerilles stated.

The construction of two high-rise condominiums by Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Ltd. inside the 10,000-hectare Subic Watershed Forest Reserve has stirred a furor among environmentalists. Indeed, logic would tell that land and forest reserves for the bats, Aetas, trees, and other native animals and beings would not be up for sale. Even if it is within the Subic economic zone, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) still has no right to sell a piece of protected land (which the Subic Cubi-Triboa forest is) and issue the Korean firm a permit for construction (environmental clearance certificate (ECC)).

But of course, principle is easily tainted by greed in corruption-rampant, third-world Philippines. Thus, it does not surprise me that those responsible at SBMA (like SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza and the head of the SBMA ecology center Amethya dela Llana-Koval, who Sen. Richard Gordon has called on to resign) has allowed this project to pull through and will not compel the Korean firm to cancel the construction of the condominiums, stating that Hanjin has secured all the necessary "legal" requirements. And why wouldn't they go out of their way to make things "legal" for the South Korean shipbuilder, who is SMBA's biggest investor and has put in $1.65 billion in investment on a 354-hectare land off the freeport's Redondo Bay area.

Opposition Sen. Loren Legarda, who is calling for a Senate inquiry, said the authorities should explain why they allowed the buildings to be erected in a priority site of the National Integrated Protected Areas System. Legarda said the project site was specifically reserved for “purposes of protecting, maintaining, or improving its water yield and providing a restraining mechanism [against] inappropriate forest exploitation and disruptive land use.”

Hanjin's attorneys and Amethya dela Llana-Koval are even trying to justify the construction by reasoning that only 28 trees have been cut down, while plans exist for a few hundred trees to be planted in their place. Extensive tree planting and replacement is not a bad idea, but it is really besides the point. The point is that the construction should have not have been allowed and should not have ever taken place in the protected area. No matter how many trees the Korean firm plans to introduce into the area, the waste that the apartments will produce and will bring in from the influx of people, is detrimental to and will definitely alter the rainforest's ecosystem.

Thanks to Mhar for the video link.

GMA News


Mandaragat said...

Subic is being eaten up slowly by a monster called "DEVELOPMENT".

Sadly, the people that swear to protect swallows it even more.

Anonymous said...

Not only is it being eaten up by "Development" but it also being eaten up by "Greed" and "Corruption". It seems like some things never will change.

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