Friday, 11 April 2008

Hanjin has not violated any rules--Arreza

Arreza explains South Korean project in Subic
The Manila Bulletin

Administrator Armand Arreza of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority yesterday admitted that several other business enterprises have built structures near the protected rainforest at the former US naval facility in Zambales but none of them, including the Korean firm, Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, have violated strict rules for the protection of the environment.

To prove his point, Arreza showed journalists photographs indicating that the site was used by the US Navy since 1968.

"Business entities can avail of the site provided they passed the environmental impact assessment (EIS) and are issued the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) which Hanjin was able to secure," Arreza said.

Arreza showed up in a news forum in Quezon City yesterday to inform Metro Manila-based newsmen that Hanjin and other firms have not violated any environmental issue as claimed by several administration and opposition senators.

Senators known to be advocates of environmental protection issues have sought a legislative inquiry into allegations that Hanjin had cleared a portion of the rainforest at the Subic Freeport to give way to a multi-level, 184-unit apartment project.

Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Loren Legarda have issued separate statements chiding the SBMA and Hanjin for the alleged destruction of the one of the country’s remaining rainforests.

Arreza countered that contrary to reports published in a national daily, Hanjin did not clear a portion of the rain forest, adding that the area had already been cleared even before their construction project commenced.

"Although Hanjin’s apartment project is inside the rain forest, it is located within the area allotted for sustainable development having been cleared before by the US Navy when Subic still housed the US Naval Base and by some business entities which have used the area before Hanjin," Arreza said at the Usaping Balita News Forum at Serye Cafe, Quezon City.

The SBMA chief noted that aside from the apartment project, the site offers other uses for recreation and industrial purposes.

Aside from Hanjin, other business enterprises located in the vicinity or which have used the area are: Acom Manufacturing (a supplier of (Acer) from 1996 – 2001; W Star (warehousing of licquor) from 2001 to present; Polar Marine (assembly of tank cleaning equipment for ships) from 1996 to present; and Subic Apex Sales, Inc. (motor vehicle trading company) from 2000 to 2006 prior to lease by Hanjin.

Arreza vowed to demand the revocation of the ECC of these business enterprises if investigation would prove that they failed to comply with the provisions of the permit.

Meanwhile, two congressmen representing districts covered by the Subic Freeport assailed alleged plans of government critics to use the Hanjin issue as part of anti-Arroyo propaganda.

Reps. Mitos Magsaysay (Lakas, Zambales) and Albert Garcia (Kampi, Bataan) described the controversy involving the project "as one of the best examples of how politics have been ruining the country, particularly the economy."

Magsaysay warned that the unwanted propaganda could be a major turn-off to the country’s investment climate.

"The very shrill protests of non-Subic residents over the Hanjin condos borders on OA (overacting). From their statements, one would get the impression that the project would cause the end of civilization," Magsaysay said.

She noted that one public official even exaggerated the issue by painting a "doomsday scenario" that the project would hasten global warming."They 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," Magsaysay said.

Magsaysay, whose husband, J.V. Magsaysay was a former SBMA official, chided politicians and environmentalists for raising a howl over the construction project without determining the truth about their allegations.

"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," she said.

Sharing the same observation, Garcia noted that even if Hanjin had, indeed, cleared three hectares of rainforests, the firm could be forgiven for pouring into the country over P200 billion worth of investments and for creating 20,000 jobs for Filipinos, in the process.

"Would it have been a reasonable barter for a mega-shipbuilding complex in a land constantly bypassed by foreign investors? My answer is yes. 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.

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