AN OCULAR INSPECTION was made by a team from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last Friday, May 29, 2020, to determine if the rubble extracted from the shoreline in Palnab’s Kinaw area is actually man-made concrete mix, not corals, as the management of Palnab Shipyard Inc. claims.
THE EXTRACTED MATERIALS were part of an old concrete structure that collapsed decades ago, according to the site engineer. At the background is the original model house of the defunct Virac Home Resort Realty Corp. and the Virac fuel depot.
It’s not coral but concrete rubble from a collapsed seawall, the Palnab Shipyard, Inc.management insisted last week as it appealed to the public to wait for the report of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on its alleged destruction of an island reef and mangrove area.
Last Sunday, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Engr. Jerry Arena told the Tribune that his office initially sent a representative to initially investigate the matter, particularly the foreshore, after receiving notice from the DENR Regional Executive Director.
“Actually, di ko pa na-receive yung memorandum but I already sent a composite team from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), foreshore management, and coastal and marine management to conduct an investigation,” PENRO Arena said.
The report will probably be released this week after undergoing a review upon his arrival from Legazpi City, he added.
In an official statement released last week, Palnab Shipyard Inc. Vice President Joseph Cua Jr. said the construction of the dry docking facility for the repair and maintenance of sea vessels has been one of the long-term projects of the company.
He disclosed that other shipping companies have already expressed interest in availing of the relatively cheap and quality services of the proposed shipyard, as the business has often gone to established shipyards in Tabaco City and Navotas City in Metro Manila.
If completed, Cua stated, it would provide jobs to about 50 to 200 workers, some of which could come from among the “Balik-Probinsiya” returnees.
Regarding the MENRO report allegations, the shipyard official said that what was removed from the shoreline came from an old collapsed structure and not parts of a coral reef. He also averred that no part of the mangrove forest was destroyed as the privately-owned property was more than enough for the needed area to complete the shipyard.
We are already preparing the needed documents to comply with government regulations pertaining to the project and we have ceased all activity at the area pending the completion of the permitting process, he stressed.
The company also apologized to the public for whatever trouble it caused, as it sought to abide by its construction time table. Cua cited the need for the reinforced concrete winch base, which will pull the vessels shore, to undergo a curing period for three months.
He deplored the slant in various social media reports claiming that his father, Governor Joseph Cua is the sole owner who controls the JC Cua Group of Companies. His father, the shipyard vice president claimed, erred in signing the letter addressed to the Palnab del Sur barangay council that was handed to him by a subordinate.
The issue about the “Kinaw” island reef came out into the open after Virac Market Supervisor II Andy Po II, who is the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) designate, submitted a copy of his May 11, 2020 investigation report to Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr. and sent a copy to the Sangguniang Bayan.
No action came from the mayor’s office while the municipal council at first debated the propriety of conducting an investigation in aid of legislation into the matter, an informed source told the Tribune.
The Sangguniang Bayan reportedly decided to keep its hands off the issue while Mayor Sarmiento weighs the local government’s course of action on the matter.
Various sources told the Tribune that actual development of the area, which consists of a sandy strip of brush land bordered by the Cabugao Bay and a mangrove area, began sometime in the 1990s.
The Virac Home Resort Realty Corp. began bulldozing the area to develop it into a high-end resort-style subdivision that would cater to “balikbayans” based in the United States and Canada.
Parts of the mangrove area were actually buried under earth to allow the division of the sprawling property into lots about 200 square meters or more in area.
The subdivision development, however, was no longer pursued after the model two-storey house, which was occupied by the then landowners from Canada, was damaged by storm surge during a supertyphoon.
The property, which had been reclassified into a commercial property, was eventually sold to the JC Cua Group of Companies,
According to the MENRO report, the full text of which is reproduced on page 5 of this issue, the shipyard company was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in August 2016.
Based in Palnab del Sur, the company was eventually granted a Mayor’s Permit to Operate as an industry that would cater to the rebuilding, repairing machinery equipment and parts, building and repairing of ships, as well as towing and pushing service in inland waters, on January 17, 2020. Presumably, the barangay council issued a clearance in favor of the company as a pre-requisite for the business license.
On April 14, 2020, the JC Cua Group of Companies informed the council that, on behalf of Palnab Shupyard, Inc., it was going to clear areas along the proposed passage of vessels for the dry docking purposes by removing the damaged sea wall. It informed that the company was in the process of securing the necessary permits and clearances for the project.
Three days, Punong Barangay Bernadeth A. Magtangob sent a letter to the company asking it to defer the clearing as the council would first conduct an ocular inspection of the site.
On April 18, it demanded that the company enter into a memorandum of agreement before commencing the clearing and at the same time asked the contractor to halt the demolition of the “island reef” which the latter maintained was part of a damaged sea wall.
Nine days later, informed of ongoing construction activity at the “Kinaw” site, PB Magtangob sought the assistance of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in conducting an inspection. They found a heavy equipment breaking the “reef island” near the shoreline, which the barangay captain ordered stopped.
On May 9, concerned residents sought an investigation into the activity, with MENRO Po making a site visit and interview with PB Magtangob.
Among the findings in the MENRO report were: “flattened” beach area with no vegetation and altered portion of the mangrove area; boulders removed from the “island reef”; and, about 70 square feet of “destroyed sea bed.”
Po said the “Kinaw” hosts a “large stretch of coral reef island serving as spawning and nursery grounds for fish and other marine species as well as act as natural break water.”
In submitting the report to Mayor Sarmiento, the MENRO-SWMO designate recommended the temporary suspension of any construction activity at the site pending the conduct of a public hearing in the two affected barangays.
He also asked that the local government request both the Sangguniaang Bayan and DENR-EMB to conduct a thorough investigation of the matter, including the determination of the damage done at the site and the crafting of a measure to guarantee the security of environmentally-critical areas.
Po also suggested that the “Kinaw” and other coral reef islands within the Palnab area be declared as a protected area.
THE HOUSE ON THE LEFT is the former model home of the defunct Virac Home Resort Realty Corp. which originally intended to develop a chic subdivision for “balikbayans” based in the United States and Canada. A storm surge spawned by a supertyphoon, however, crashed into the residence then occupied by the former landowners and dissuaded them from continuing the project. They eventually sold the sprawling brush land alongside the shore and mangrove area to the JC Cua Group and went back to Canada, reports say.
THROUGH THIS WIDE GAP in the shoreline will be towed any vessel that will undergo rebuilding or repair at the proposed shipyard. According to the site engineer, large balloons will be inflated and attached to the ship while in the water and then it will be towed by a winch to shore, running over a roller system that will be laid in its path.
PART OF THE MANGROVE AREA at the right portion of the winch base has been buried in the construction process, an inspection of the site shows. In the foreground lies boulder-sized pieces of the alleged damaged sea wall removed from the seabed by the company as part of the shipyard construction.
COMPANY OFFICIALS claim the actual boundary of the existing mangrove is marked by these non-mangrove brush along its edge and that no mangrove was affected during the leveling of the private property. It said that the existing area was more than enough for the requirements of the proposed shipyard.
ABOUT 200 METERS INLAND is the winch base, with the towed vessel to pass through this sandy area on top of a roller system. This same area will be crawling with equipment and workers once the shipyard operates, the company states. At left is the end of the shore protection built to prevent waves from eroding part of the property.
TO THESE THREE STEEL ANCHORS will be secured the towing or winch lines to be attached to the ship, pulled by equipment to be placed on top of the winch base. With the foundation about three meters deep, the winch base needs about three months of curing in order to allow the reinforced to attain full strength., the Palnab Shipyard management said.