DENR gives signal to process cement giant’s foreshore lease renewal

Holcim wins fight vs. village over rights on foreshore area

By ROGER M. BALANZA

 

            The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has given the go-signal for processing of application of renewal of foreshore lease agreement of Holcim Philippines over an 8-hectare coastal area in Davao City, in a victory over a barangay opposing the renewal.

            DENR XI regional director Jim Sampulna in an order released recently ordered the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Davao City to start processing of the renewal application for the contested foreshore area in Barangay Ilang in Bunawan District.

            The order comes amid vehement opposition by the Barangay Council of Ilang led by barangay chairman Romeo Cabling, who filed a petition with DENR against the renewal of the Holcim lease.

            Cabling has alleged the foreshore area covered by Foreshore Lease Agreement (FLA) No. V-5270 had reverted back to public land after the expiration of the 25-year lease  in 1994. The barangay chair also said the barangay had mapped out a development plan for the area—near the cement plant of the Swiss-owned giant cement maker—for barangay projects like buildings, training centers and a public beach.

            Barangay Ilang also has passed a resolution that refused to endorse the Holcim application for renewal, and cited a presidential memorandum issued by then President Fidel Ramos that the endorsement of the local government unit is needed for the Holcim renewal.

Cabling had also accused Holcim of environment violation for using the foreshore area as dumping ground for its cement wastes and coal fuel residues; and alleged the company violated terms and conditions of the FLA by its failure to introduce substantial development in the area during the 25-year lease.

            But Sampulna—who dismissed for lack of merit the petition of Cabling and Barangay Ilang in the order not to renew the Holcim application— said the barangay endorsement is not needed in the renewal of the application, citing a memorandum order by the DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes that the endorsement is needed only in the original application and not during its renewal.

            Sampulna also belied accusations of Cabling that Holcim failed to introduce developments or had violated environmental laws based on papers submitted by the inter-agency Multi-Partite Monitoring Team and the CENRO in Davao City.

            The DENR order to CENRO to proceed with preparation of the renewal application puts to an end a five-year battle over the foreshore area by Barangay Ilang and Holcim, the former Bacnotan Cement Consolidated Industries, which operates seven cement plants throughout the country. 

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