05/21/2010 [ tribune.net.ph ]
The proponent of the P2.5 billion expansion of Caticlan airport in Aklan should apply for a new environment clearance certificate (ECC) and acquire local permits before they can level the hill around the airport, Aklan Gov. Carlito Marquez warned yesterday.
Marquez informed the diversifying conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), which recently acquired a majority stake in a consortium operating the Caticlan airport, considered a gateway to the popular Boracay Island, to comply with these re-quirements or they will stop the construction of the government project.
The Caticlan airport reha-bilitation, a prio-rity project of the Arroyo admi-nistration, has met opposition from several environmental groups after its former developer —Caticlan International Airport Development Corp. (CIADC) announced that they will flatten the nearby hill to extend the runway.
Last month, SMC announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, San Miguel Holdings Corp., had executed a share sale agreement with the consortium of George Yang, of Golden Arches Development Corp., the master franchise holder of the McDonalds fast food chain, to acquire CIADC.
With the acquisition of the majority stake in CIADC, SMC formalized its entry into the airport business. Since three years ago, SMC has expanded into energy generation and distribution, tele-communications, toll roads and, recently, mining.
A group of stockholders are questioning the merit of risking the good name of SMC by being associated with a project that represents the very evil in what the whole world is particularly concerned about.
“Do we really want this highlighted at a time when the eyes of the global environmental are on us with the visit of Al Gore this June?” asked Roger Birosel of the Earthsavers Movement.
Ealier, members of the Earthsavers Movement opposed the leveling of the hill because of the destruction of Boracay’s “micro-climate,” the extinction of nearby Lupo-lupo lake from being filled up with soil and aggregates from the hill, destruction of coral reefs and forests, and eventual flooding. They urged apparent president Noynoy Aquino to review the airport expansion.
According to Maquez, the provincial government had issued necessary local permits for the project when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources approved the ECC in 2006.
However, Marquez clarified that the ECC did not state that the hill will be leveled by the proponent, who will extend the existing runway from 950 meters to 2,100 meters, improvement of the road network and upgrading of airport facilities and air traffic control aids.
The governor pointed out that under the ECC, it is for the provincial government’s simple upgrade of the airport complex and not the present development plan as envisioned the CIADC.
He also told newsmen that the CIADC did not have proper consultation with the provincial officials, which is one of the three major components of the issued ECC along with a multi-partite monitor team and social responsibilities with stakeholders.
Concerned residents also said that the plan of the developer to level the nearby hill along the runway poses danger to the environment in mainland Panay.
Marquez said he will asked the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the provincial engineering office to look into the status of the project after learning that the proponent have not started the project after two ground breaking ceremonies wherein President Arroyo herself was guest speaker.
The CIADC has a 25-year contract to rehabilitate and operate the airport, which is being upgraded to accommodate the increasing passenger traffic to Boracay. The proponent has the exclusive rights to design, build, operate and maintain Caticlan Airport as a result of an agreement it signed with the transport and communications department.
The phase of the project is supposed to be operational next month when Mrs. Arroyo steps down into office. The whole project, under the build-operate-transfer scheme, is expected to be operational by 2013.