A coalition of environmental groups, academics, church leaders, and community representatives filed a graft case against Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Remollo and other city officials on Saturday, September 30, 2023, over the alleged reclamation activities in Barangay Tinago.
The complainants accused Remollo and his co-respondents of violating Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly entering into an anomalous joint venture agreement with E.M. Cuerpo Inc. (EMCI), a private contractor, to undertake the reclamation of 174 hectares of coastal waters in Barangay Tinago without public bidding, consultation, or environmental clearance.
The complainants also claimed that the reclamation project would cause irreversible damage to the marine ecosystem, biodiversity, and livelihood of the local fisherfolk and residents. They cited several studies and reports that showed the negative impacts of reclamation on the environment and human health.
The complainants were led by Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, a professor at Silliman University and a former consultant of the United Nations Development Programme, who said that the reclamation project was “illegal, immoral, and ecologically disastrous.”
“We are here to seek justice for our city, our environment, and our future generations. We are here to stop this reclamation project that will destroy our coastal resources, our heritage, and our identity as a city of gentle people,” Emmanuel said in a statement.
The complainants were accompanied by their legal counsel, Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, the vice president of Oceana Philippines, an international organization that advocates for ocean conservation. Ramos said that they have enough evidence to prove that Remollo and his co-respondents committed graft and corruption.
“We have documents that show that there was no public bidding, no public consultation, no environmental impact assessment, no environmental compliance certificate, no feasibility study, no social acceptability survey, and no coordination with the Philippine Reclamation Authority for this reclamation project. These are clear violations of the law and the Constitution,” Ramos said.
Ramos also said that they will file other cases against Remollo and his co-respondents for violating other laws such as the Fisheries Code, the Clean Water Act, the Local Government Code, and the Climate Change Act.
Remollo has not issued any statement regarding the graft case as of press time. However, he has previously defended the reclamation project as a “development initiative” that would create jobs, businesses, and infrastructure for the city. He also claimed that the project had undergone due process and had secured all the necessary permits and clearances.
The reclamation project has been met with strong opposition from various sectors in Dumaguete City since it was announced in 2020. Several protests, petitions, forums, and campaigns have been launched to stop the project and to demand transparency and accountability from the city government.
The case was filed before the City Prosecution Office at the Hall of Justice in Dumaguete City on Saturday morning. The complainants were joined by hundreds of supporters who marched from Silliman University to the Hall of Justice while carrying placards and banners that read “No to Reclamation,” “Save Dumaguete,” and “Protect Our Seas.”