By DEFEND ILOCOS (PR)
VIGAN CITY — The Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) calls on the people of the region to unite against corporate greed and environmental plunder. According to Defend Ilocos, only the people can expose and fight policies that provide freedom for corporations to exploit and plunder nature for profit.
Sherwin De Vera, regional coordinator of Defend Ilocos, said that in Region 1, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is promoting the development of 15 protected areas in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan into ecotourism enterprises under the public-private partnership program. The group criticized the development and conservation framework set forth by the government, particularly eco-tourism projects for being “more attuned to profit accumulation of big businesses to the detriment of the people or the wider community.”
According to De Vera, ecotourism allows the government to turn ecological protection and governance into a profitable endeavour for private corporations and for its own revenue generation. “Besides disrupting the natural habitats and landscapes, ecotourism projects also displace communities and individuals from their livelihood,” he then added.
Ecotourism ventures were likewise used to justify mining operations in the Lingayen Gulf and Metro Vigan. Pangasinan governor Amado Espino, Jr. rationalized the illegal blacksand extraction operated by Alexandria Mining and Oil Ventures as necessary for the Golf Course Project located in the planned Lingayen Gulf Coast Eco-tourism Zone. Former Ilocos Sur governor Luis Singson also defended blacksand extraction as essential to develop beaches in Metro Vigan.
“Large expanse of fishing grounds have been made off-limits to small fisherfolks, beach fronts were allotted for resorts, protective magnetite concentrates are removed from the shoreline and indigenous peoples are prevented from gathering forest products all in the name of eco-tourism and a twisted idea of conservation,” De Vera claimed.
Also, Defend Ilocos wishes to address the growing waste problem compounded by “development” projects associated with tourism. He cited the case of big coastal resorts such as Hannah’s Beach Resort in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte and Vitalis Resort and Spa in Santiago, Ilocos Sur.
“A few years ago, Hannah’s Beach Resort was reported to be disposing sewage and waste water directly to the sea without any treatment. On the other hand, Vitalis is dumping unsegregated waste in an open dumpsite and lacks treatment facilities for waste water,” elaborated De Vera. He added that waste generated by both enterprises are much more than what the local government’s waste disposal facility can accommodate.
He said, “Environmental conservation efforts must anchor on providing the needs for the poor because they are highly dependent on nature’s bounty, and on production processes that will actually jumpstart national industrialization.”# nordis.net