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09 March 2009

Solon bares motive behind Palafox’s ‘environmentalism’

Buhay Partylist representative Carissa Coscolluela said the “web of lies” spun by architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. around the controversial Ocean 9 hotel-casino project here seems to serve a hidden motive — the transfer of the project to another site where a firm co-owned by Palafox stands to gain US$36 million.

This may be the reason why Palafox has been “screaming bloody murder of trees” in the proposed project site “even when the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) stated from day one that not a single tree has been cut, or will be cut,” said Coscolluela during the congressional hearing conducted last Wednesday by the House committee on bases conversion.

To back up her claim, Coscolluela produced the general information sheet (GIS) of the Subic Coastal Development Corporation (SCDC), the firm that developed the 18-hectare Moonbay Marina property here, which listed Palafox among its incorporators, board members, and stockholders.

It was learned that Palafox owns 5 percent of the SCDC. Palafox claimed in Wednesday’s hearing that he was not aware of his being a stockholder in the SCDC.

According to SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, an offer has been made recently to the hotel-casino proponent Grand Utopia Inc. for the lease of the entire 18-hectare site for $40 million.

Arreza said the SBMA stands to get US$4 million only under this scheme, as opposed to US$36 million for SCDC, under the terms of contract entered between the two parties during the term of former SBMA chairman Felicito Payumo..

The terms of the contract, said Coscolluela, would be “greatly disadvantageous to the government”, and would be the subject of a separate inquiry also by the bases conversion committee.

Palafox was among those who worked on the conceptual master plan of the Moonbay Marina project, which, according to SBMA Ecology chief Amethya dela Llana-Koval, was issued a cease and desist order (CDO) when construction began even before an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) was issued for the project.

Koval likewise said that at least 90 trees were cut for the Moonbay Marina project, and that the nesting site of at least three endangered species of “pawikan” in the area had been destroyed in the process.

With this, Coscolluela concluded that Palafox has only been “masquerading as a noble environmentalist” when it suited his purpose.

“Many people have joined his cause, believing that this is a fight to save the environment. Let us not be fooled,” Coscolluela said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

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