Saturday, April 25, 2009

LGUs urged to endorse sustainable investments

LGUs urged to endorse sustainable investments
Updated June 18, 2008 12:00 AM

With the influx of high net worth investments in the province posing high social impacts to the immediate locality, civil groups call for the local government units to enhance their evaluation process to only approve sustainable investments amenable to the community.

“It will be much more responsible for LGUs in the province to seek out sustainable investments, environmentally sound projects and at the same time responsive to the community’s needs,” said Vince Cinches, Executive Director of the Central Visayas Fisherfolks Development Center Inc. and one of the advocates of the Save Tañon Strait Citizens Movement.

He said that non-government organizations (NGOs) and civil groups in Cebu are very much active because the local government still has several things to improve especially in addressing the basic needs of the community and in their evaluation process of projects.

“There should be a change of mindset for government officials so they can adopt a more appropriate concept of sustainable development. Development is not only physical infrastructure but social and political infrastructure should first be in place,” he stressed.

Cinches argued that the local government sector has seemingly adopted a backward concept for progress because of its continued pursuit for destructive projects, which is rather opposite to that of the public’s increasing understanding and awareness on sustainable development.

He said that example of destructive project recently pursued by the government include the contested Tañon Strait Oil exploration by the Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Ltd. (JAPEX). After constant vigilance from some social and environmental organizations which was led by the Save Tañon Strait Citizens Movement, the JAPEX operation has been successfully blocked.

However Cinches’ group is now lamenting over another possible threat in the face of a new potential investor called as NorAsia, an Australian oil and gas explorer.

He said that if NorAsia will be given required endorsements by the provincial board to operate in Argao, it will surely pose possible threat to our natural environment.

“We hope the provincial board will not endorse the project. We should learn from the Japex experience. There should be clear-cut feasibility studies to come up with an objective and informed decision so to avoid gray areas in its implementation,” he further added.

He also stressed that participation of people in policy making is very important to empower communities.

At the moment, social organizations still have very limited engagements with the public sector. But he argued that if both parties will be able to renew their processes, engagements could take place even outside the Regional and Provincial Development Council, Cinches said.

The development council is a decision-making body for different economic development undertakings composed of the government sector as well as representatives from multi-segmented stakeholders in the community.

“We are very willing to sit down and help the public sector become a model of “responsive development.” Partnership could be a very effective means to bridge agreement and there are a lot of social organizations that can be tapped to draft guidelines in projects and identify inherent problems within our locality,” underscored Cinches.

— Rhia de Pablo

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