• CA junks Syjuco appeal in ‘kalikasan’ case

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    THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed its earlier ruling that junked former Rep. Augusto Syjuco Jr.’s plea for issuance of environmental protection order in connection with the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP II) in Iloilo.

    The P11-billion project seeks to upgrade the existing irrigation systems from 22,000 to 31,840 hectares farmland for year-round irrigation, supplement the power supply in the province through the building of a 6.6-megawatt hydroelectric power plant, augment the supply of good quality and potable water for domestic and industrial consumption, mitigate flooding promote eco-tourism, and generate employment for 17,000 workers during construction.

    In its March 31, 2015 resolution, the appellate court’s former Fifth Division denied the motion for reconsideration with prayer for issuance of an urgent ex parte Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) filed by Syjuco.

    In denying Syjuco’s motion for reconsideration, the appellate court held that “petitioner relied heavily on testimonies of public respondent’s witnesses and the witnesses presented [or]testified on activities that were related to the conduct of feasibility study, which occurred only at specific times, contrary to his claim that there were on going and causing him grave injustice and irreparable injury.”

    “The issuance of the TEPO cannot be based on generalizations and speculations of what may occur in the future,” it added.

    However, the appellate court denied public respondents’ motion to quash subpoena duces tecum and ad testificandum issued to Dennis Taborno, Tribal Affairs Assistant I of the National Commission on Indigenous People of Regional Office, Region VI-VII, whom it subpoenaed on September 17, 2014 upon Syjuco’s motion.

    On March 22, 2012, the National Economic and Development Authority Board, chaired by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, approved JRMP Phase II.

    On February 21, 2013, President Aquino, assisted by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Gov. Art Defensor Sr. of Iloilo and Sen. Franklin Drilon, headed the ceremonial capsule-laying of the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Stage II at the Provincial Capitol Building of Iloilo in Iloilo City.

    But Syjuco pointed out the project would trigger the killing of many fish and other aquatic species, and the disappearance of birds in the floodplains of the second district and the cities of Passi and Iloilo.

    In its resolution penned by Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang and concurred in by Associate Justices Marlene Gonzales-Sison and Edwin Sorongon, the appellate court reiterated its order for Taborno to testify on May 13 and 14, 2015, and to bring with him all relevant documents pertaining to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent process of the affected indigenous communities on the conduct of the feasibility study on the JRMP II.

    The subpoena was issued with a “stern warning that failure to appear on said dates may constitute grounds for citing him in contempt.”

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