[ sunstar.com.ph ] Saturday, January 30, 2010
By Terry D.C. Betonio
A TOP executive of St. Peter Memorial Chapel viewed as "bias" and "sham" the public hearing held Saturday at the site of the funeral firm's proposed project in Barangay Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City.
Victor Tancinco, St. Peter's executive vice president for Visayas and Mindanao, even refused at first to be interviewed by the media right after the public hearing, saying "What for? They denied it already."
Tancinco said they were not given a "fair treatment" at the public hearing, and even called it a "sham."
"This is not a public hearing, this is a political rally. This is a sham!" he said.
Tancinco said they would "go to court" and fight, citing the legality of their project.
Bulua barangay chair Al Legaspi viewed Tancinco's statement as his personal assessment of the public hearing.
"That's his statement. If he saw it as bias, that's his own view. But we have given everyone the chance to speak. We even invited representatives from government agencies concerned to shed light on some issues raised by the residents," Legaspi said.
He said there would be no problem if St. Peter would go to court.
"If they go to court and insist on putting up their project here, it's their right. But they should consider that this is Bulua, this is our area, we are the residents here," Legaspi added.
Earlier, Legaspi said the barangay council would support whatever decision the residents would come up regarding the project.
Barangay councilor Pedro Legaspi, however, said toward the end of the public hearing that the council is saying "no" to the project.
But Tancinco viewed it as his "personal opinion," and not the council as a whole.
During the public hearing, the residents unanimously say "no" to the proposed project, re-echoing their earlier opposition.
Gemma Pabayo-Velasco, a resident of the area who leads the protesting residents, told the officials of St. Peter not to insist with the project because the residents are opposed to it.
"You listen to the people, because the voice of the people has said 'no'," she said.
The more than 600 residents in the area filed last year a petition against the establishment of St. Peter's funeral parlor and embalming facilities at Lower Zone 2, citing numerous reasons, such as environment, public health, sanitation and drainage.
Velasco said the residents are vehemently opposing the project as water discharges or any wastes from the funeral parlor might contaminate Tuburan, a spring where residents who have no access to the water district get their drinking water.
Tuburan, a water source with "clear water flowing endlessly" located around 200 meters away from the proposed site, is set to be developed by the barangay council into a tourism site.
However, Tancinco said St. Peter has high-tech wastewater treatment facility. He assured that the water at Tuburan would not be contaminated.
"We assured that there will be no leakage, even if Tuburan is situated 10 meters away from our septic tank. We will conduct testing of water every six months, to allay your fears," he said.
St. Peter will reportedly build a P200 million mega chapel with its equipment for septic tank worth P2.8 million.
Tancinco said the mega chapel, which would be its 264th chapel in the Philippines, would cater to high-end clients.
Amy Mabatid, St. Peter assistant vice president, said the company would provide employment to residents in the area once construction of the project starts, along with other community projects.
Bonifacia Labadan, a resident in the area, said they appreciate the plan of St. Peter in providing employment opportunities and are not saying "no" to the project.
However, she said this should be located somewhere else, not in their area.
"Please find another place. We are peaceful here, we are contented here. We will agree if the project to be established here are grocery stores or other business establishments, not funeral parlor," Labadan said.
However, Tancinco said that based on the zoning ordinance of the City Government, Barangay Bulua is the identified place for a funeral parlor business.
Earlier, St. Peter found an area in Barangay Kauswagan for the proposed project but the barangay council disapproved its application because it is not included in the zoning regulation.
Engineer Alex Jimenez, head of the Environmental Impact Assessment Monitoring Division of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the application of St. Peter for the environment compliance certificate is still pending at their office.
He said they are still processing the company's application, taking into consideration the outcome of the public hearing though he claimed that St. Peter has the right to put up whatever projects it want because it owned the land.
Ben Salvador, senior environment management specialist of the City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office, also said that all the issues raised by the residents in their petition and the counter-claim of St. Peter would be evaluated by their office before coming out with a final decision.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 31, 2010.