Statement on the planned Smart City and reclamation in Dumaguete City

The Rights of Nature PH raises grave concern to the proposed 174-hectare reclamation project and construction of the “Smart City” in Dumaguete City. The P23-billion Private-Public Partnership (PPP) project between E.M. Cuerpo Inc. and Dumaguete City Government is questionable at best, and catastrophic at worst.

The establishment of the “Smart City” mainly for profit-generation to the detriment of Dumaguete City’s marine biodiversity and which can lead to increased vulnerabilities to disasters, is not a smart move at all.

The evident disregard for nature masked as ‘development’ effort shall only add to the deep-seated problems in our environment in the long run. The pending destruction of Dumaguete City’s marine biodiversity, including whale sharks, coral reefs, and seagrasses, as well as alteration of its coasts is also a natural, man-made, food security, health, and waste management disaster in the making.

Reclamation activities disrupting the balance of marine ecosystems exacerbates impacts of climate change and weakening the city’s natural defense against it.

Displacement of sea creatures will adversely impact the natural food supply chain as well as their increased exposure to marine viruses that could give rise to potential zoonotic diseases, the same nature as the COVID-19.

Negative socio-cultural impacts are also in line as local communities are displaced along with their home environment and livelihood that depends on it. Additionally, increase in urban population and consumption also means increase in wastes and pollution.

To aggravate the situation at hand, just below the tip of the iceberg nestles a governance and sovereignty issue. The company E.M. Cuerpo Inc. is reported to have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a Chinese, non-SEC registered entity Poly Changda Overseas Engineering Co., granting the latter to be a sub-contractor of the reclamation for the so-called Smart City. A confidentiality clause was also reported to have been agreed upon by both parties, wherein all information should be kept confidential, and any disputes should be resolved in Singapore. Further, the meager Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) of the PPP agreement is yet to elucidate its sketchy provisions citing that the Dumaguete LGU will not be able to have a say on who will own almost half of the reclaimed area [1]. This is a clear manifestation of either a sloppy leadership or a selfish, greedy governance that prioritizes money over the health of the environment and its constituents.

WE CALL THE ATTENTION OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT OF DUMAGUETE TO RETHINK AND RECONSIDER their decisions over the irreversible damage of the reclamation project not only on the coastal and marine ecosystem of Dumaguete, but from where those materials will be sourced out. The environmentally-conscious people of Dumaguete would not want mountains, hills and rivers in other parts of the country to be desecrated for their comfort.

WE CALL THE ATTENTION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES (DENR) to study thoroughly the impacts of this reclamation project and UPHOLD YOUR MISSION in protecting, conserving, and managing the environment and natural resources for the present and future generations.

WE CALL FOR TRANSPARENCY and initiation of real and inclusive public dialogues and consultations to hear what the people on the ground has to say.

WE DEMAND FOR AN ECOLOGICALLY-JUST GOVERNANCE that recognizes the intrinsic value and Rights of Nature, and thus puts forth sustainable and people-centered development over profit generation.

WE REITERATE the SECTION 2 of CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES that the public officials and employees shall at ALL TIMES be ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PEOPLE and shall discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, competence and loyalty, act with patriotism and justice, lead modest lives, and UPHOLD PUBLIC INTEREST OVER PERSONAL INTEREST.”

WE SUPPORT THE CALL of different groups, individuals and the scientific community to hold public consultations in order to make informed and coordinated decisions regarding the outcomes and impacts of the proposed project to the people and environment of Dumaguete City.

LOOK and CONTEMPLATE on environment-friendly and less destructive development projects.

LISTEN and HEAR the voice of your constituents, the scientific communities and experts.

STOP and SCRAP the proposed 174-hectare reclamation project now!