OSG wants Iloilo ‘kalikasan’ case junked

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THE Office of Solicitor General (OSG) has sought the dismissal of the motion for a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) seeking to stop the controversial Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II (JRMP II) in Iloilo, which involves the construction of a dam.

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In a four-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang and concurred by Associate Justices Marlene Gonzales-Sison and Socorro Inting, the Court of Appeals Special Former Fifth Division cancelled the hearing on the TEPO for failure of petitioner Augusto Syjuco and his counsel, as well as the witness, to appear.

On the motion to deny the motion for TEPO, public respondents manifested that Syjuco had terminated his presentation of evidence on his motion for the issuance of TEPO as early as July 9, 2014 and has yet to file his formal offer of evidence.

Thus, the respondents, thru the OSG, prayed that the petitioner’s right to present his formal offer of evidence be waived.

It also sought the cancellation of the hearing on October 3, 2014. The appellate court denied the same considering that petitioner and his counsel may appear with a witness.

Finally, the OSG moved that the petition be dismissed outright for failure to prosecute the case.

The appeals court, however, in its resolution dated October 27, 2014 but released to the media only recently, directed the OSG “to reduce the same in writing and furnish petitioner a copy thereof so as to allow him to comment on said motion.”

The Supreme Court earlier referred the matter to the appellate court to resolve the issues, hear the case, and receive evidence on the case.

In October 2013 , the High Tribunal thumbed down the dam project in the wake of a petition for a writ of kalikasan sought by former Rep. Augusto Syjuco Jr. of Iloilo.

Syjuco opposed the project which may displace thousands of residents and starve hundreds of poor and marginalized Ilongos. He claimed that the construction of the project will displace 17,000 indigenous people living in the affected areas.

The P11-billion project seeks to upgrade the year-round coverage of existing irrigation systems from 22,000 to 31,840 hectares of farmland, 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 flood, promote eco-tourism, and generate employment for 17,000 workers during construction.

Syjuco said he filed the petition to oppose the continued implementation of the JRMP  II project.

Tribes living in the three affected barangays in Calinog that are holders of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles will also be submerged, he added.

As titleholders of land under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts, the tribes cannot be dislocated from their homes because their concept of ownership sustains the view that ancestral domains and all resources found therein shall serve as the material bases of their cultural integrity.

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