SBMA admits SEA Games construction in protected area lacks permit

Randy Datu

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SBMA admits SEA Games construction in protected area lacks permit
SBMA says the contractor, CFV ARAR Contractors, has been issued a violation notice for the 'extensive clearing and grubbing operations in the area without appropriate environmental permit'

ZAMBALES, Philippines – The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) admitted on Thursday, November 28, that the development within a protected area inside the Subic Freeport, meant as a venue for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, lacks environmental clearance certificate. 

Reacting to an exclusive report of Rappler, Amethya dela Llana, manager of the SBMA Ecology Center and concurrently OIC senior deputy administrator for the Regulatory Group, said her office had issued a violation notice to the contractor last week.

In a statement sent to the media, Dela Llana said the SBMA Ecology Center “issued a Notice of Violation to the project contractor, CFV ARAR Contractors, Phils., Inc., on Nov. 22, 2019 after an on-site inspection on Nov. 21, 2019 revealed extensive clearing and grubbing operations in the area without appropriate environmental permit.” 

She said CFV ARAR Contractors won the bid for the construction of a Shotgun Shooting Range Field at the NavMag area. The project was initially ordered for construction for the SEA Games Clark Cluster, but on September 18, 2019, the Philippine SEA Games Organization Committee (Phisgoc) endorsed the project to the Subic Cluster for implementation. 

Dela Llana said, however, that “while the project is located in a protected area, the West Ilanin Forest, it is within a built-up area of the former Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). The EOD was used extensively by the US Navy at the height of Vietnam War along with the nearby ammunition pier at Camayan Point, which is now the site of the Ocean Adventure Marine Park, one of the few commercial areas located within the West Ilanin Protected Area.”

She said the contractor “will be held liable for the violation it committed and will be compelled by the SBMA to undergo compliance.”

In an earlier interview, Loy Arpon of CFV Contractors confirmed to Rappler that this was a “rushed job,” but that he didn’t have the information about their ECC because “somebody else is handling the paperwork.” 

The major works being done in the protected area was first exposed through videos posted on Facebook by Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Inc (SBMEI) president and CEO Robert Gonzaga. The videos showed heavy machinery dumping layers of fill earth onto the venue, cut down trees by the side of the road, and no signages displaying the permits of the contractor. 

Sought for comment on SBMA’s admission, Gonzaga said: “This only confirms what we already know. But there is more here than meets the eye. The EOD site is a greenfield area, and was not previously used by anyone, except the US Navy. So why was taxpayer money spent to develop this site when there are perfectly adequate sites in Clark for a shooting event? It was only after we made noise, and the media started asking around, that they sent inspectors to the site. So why did SBMA allow all this? For whom was this done?” 

Gonzaga said that he, along with another SBMEI founder, visited the site on Thursday and met with some of the contractors. “We are actually sympathetic to the contractors. They are being made the scapegoat for SBMA Chair WIlma Eisma’s failure in stewardship of the Subic Freeport’s environmental assets. She should give a full account of her role in this and not pass the blame on to people who are merely doing their jobs.”  

He said Eisma was also unfortunately using SBMA employees like Dela Llana as “human shields. All of a sudden, they’re the ones being asked to fall on their swords for her own lapses. By SBMA’s own admission, this was endorsed to them back in September. They had plenty of time to orient and ask for the contractor’s compliance on permits. But who…in the SBMA [gave] the go-ahead on this project without any permits?”  

The SBMA statement said the next Technical Compliance Conference will be conducted by the SBMA Ecology Center “with representatives of the project management team to resolve issues regarding permitting responsibility for the project… after the SEA Games.” – 

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