PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THREE lawmakers from Central Luzon yesterday took turns hitting militant groups for fanning the “environmental hysteria” over the condominium project of Hanjin Heavy Industries in the Subic Free Port Zone.
Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay and Bataan Rep. Albert Garcia said the firestorm involving the construction of the multi-level two-building apartment complex was one of the best examples of how politics has been ruining the country, particularly the economy.
“We have to moderate our rage and look at the big picture—and the latter includes a dirty Manila Bay and the dirty Manila skyline which day in and day out are seen by occupants of Senate offices,” Garcia said.
“Other far serious environmental crimes should be the main object of our rage,” Magsaysay said.
Magsaysay said the controversy could lead to the loss of 20,000 jobs because the hysteria is a turn-off to investors.
“The very shrill protests of non-Subic residents over the Hanjin condos borders on OA [over-acting],” Magsaysay said.
Senator Richard Gordon joined them in supporting the project, a complete turnaround from his previous position.
Gordon had visited the site and told newsmen that “there were no trees cut” in the area that was the Naval Magazine or the ammunition dump for the Subic Naval Base.
He said there were already small buildings in the area even before the South Korean firm began construction of the apartment for its officials and employees.
He added that even if the laws allowed it, the condominiums should not have been constructed in the first place.
“It’s a question of taste, therefore, not environmental laws because these laws have not been violated,” he told the weekly Kapihan sa Senado.
Magsaysay said one public official whom she did not identify even went overboard with his doomsday scenario and made a conclusion which no scientist and not even Al Gore have reached : That the project would hasten global warming, as if two buildings in a small patch of logged-over land have stretched wide the ozone hole.
“My appeal to them is to investigate first before they speak,” said Magsaysay.
She cited the repeated declaration of SBMA administrator Armand Arreza that the site is not within the “zero development zone,” that roads were previously built in the area, that as early as 1966 it was previously cleared of trees and its soil graded by the US Navy.
Magsaysay said politicians and environmentalists who are raising a howl over the project did not bother to research their facts first before throwing accusations against the project proponents and investors.
“The image that has been seared in the public mind is that a whole forest was sacrificed when in fact this was not the case. They claim that the development encompasses a big area when it sits on just three hectares, which is smaller than the Batasan complex,” she said.
In contrast, the female lawmaker said 3 hectares of forest is what we lose to kaingin burning every 100 minutes in our country today.