The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dumaguete expressed its opposition to a planned 147-hectare “Smart City” island reclamation project, urging “transparency and dialogue” on the matter.
The diocese made known its position in an open letter on Monday, July 12, to project developer E.M. Cuerpo Inc. (EMCI) president Celerino S. Cuerpo. Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes, Vicar General Monsignor Glenn Corsiga, Chancellor Father Gonzalo Omison II, and Episcopal Vicar Monsignor Robert Bongoyan signed the letter.
“While we acknowledge the intention of the local government of Dumaguete City to promote economic, social, and political development, we strongly believe that massive projects like the one stated above must also consider the scientific and environmental implications, not to mention its impacts on the cultural and moral life of the people in the local community,” the diocese’s open letter read.
On July 7, the Dumaguete City Council voted 7-3 to grant Mayor Felipe Remollo authority to sign a joint venture agreement with EMCI, which would shoulder the project’s P23-billion cost under a public-private partnership agreement.
Proponents argue that the project will bring much-needed jobs and investment to the city. Yet critics, who have decried the lack of public consultation and seeming haste to advance the venture, say that the negative environmental and social impacts far outweigh the possible economic gains.
This is not the first time the Catholic Church in Dumaguete has involved itself and spoken out on the city’s controversial public works projects.
Last March 24, the diocese hosted a forum with city officials, scientists, environmental groups, and other stakeholders on a separate yet also controversial 1.7-hectare reclamation project along Rizal Boulevard.
In 2020, citing religious, historical, and cultural concerns, the diocese also opposed a plan to build an 18-story “Masonic obelisk” at the city’s Quezon Plaza, just in front of the Dumaguete Cathedral.
The Diocese of Dumaguete joins the growing list of institutions, civil society groups, and individuals pushing back against the project.
Silliman University, known for its strong environmental and marine sciences program, launched a petition on Sunday, July 11, opposing the project.
Meanwhile, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo said there was a need for a “proper study” on the project, and that elected officials’ decisions should consider the people’s interest and will.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Negros Oriental also passed a resolution urging the Dumaguete City Council “to defer and reevaluate” the authority they gave Remollo as it was given “without prior consultation with its constituents and in the absence of an environmental technical study.” – Rappler.com