Friday, July 24, 2009

Environmentalists set sight on proposed Simunul Industrial and Oil Tank Park

TAWI-TAWI,Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 24, 2009)– Environmentalist have expressed alarm over a proposal to put up a multi-billion Industrial and Oil Tank Park in the southern Philippine town of Simunul.

The project was signed by Mayor Benzar Tambut, of Simunul and REBC Builders and Development Corporation headed by its president, Engineer Reynaldo Esplanada and its foreign counterpart, American Advance Group (AAG) led by its president, Mohamed Hamouda.

Tambut earlier said the project could generate up to 10,000 jobs and improve education and health services; strengthens spiritual and cultural identities; protection and development of natural resources; conservation and preservation of a balance eco-system and tourism development.

But many fear that the project can cause pollution that may damaged the marine eco-system around Simunul and nearby islands, especially the turtle sanctuaries.

Tambut said the huge project covers a 200-tank farm, power plant, domestic airport, hotel and resort, land transportation system, potable water source, reforestation and landscaping, information technology and telecommunications, road and bridges development, solid waste management facility, golf course, industrial storage and processing facility, power transmission facility, hospital facility, schools, commercial district and jetty and ports.

But those who are opposing the project said no tourists would go to Simunul just to stay in hotels or spend their holidays in the beach because of the long travel time it would take to go to the town from Manila. Simunul has no airports, but Bongao town in Tawi-Tawi which is several hours by boat. There is also no regular ferry service from Bongao to Simunul.

It was unknown if provincial officials were aware of the project. Local environmentalists said they would call the attention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Greenpeace to investigate the project.

Tawi-Tawi province is part of the Coral Triangle which covers nearly 2.3 million square miles of ocean across all, or parts of, the seas of six countries in the Indo-Pacific—Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.

The Coral Triangle is a myriad of life forms and lifestyles. This vast area of the Indo-Pacific region harbors 75 percent of all known coral species, more than half of the world’s reefs, 40 percent of the world's coral reef fish species, and six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle.

The Coral Triangle is also part of a wider region that contains 51 of the world's 70 mangrove species and 23 of the 50 sea grass species. It contains at least 500 species of reef-building coral. It supports livelihoods and provides income and food security, particularly for coastal communities. Resources from the area directly sustain more than 120 million people living in the area. (Mindanao Examiner)

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