Ruperto Cruz advocating for “just, rational, and equitable development of Clark for the contiguous communities.” File photo
ANGELES CITY – The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The Expo Filipino in Clark. The Mabalacat-Clark-Angeles Road. All constructed at great expense, all falling into disuse.
The realigned Subic-Clark Railway Project (SCRP) could fall into the same state of being a white elephant warned the multi-sectoral advocacy group Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement. “And even worse, given its adverse socio-economic and environmental impact to developed and developing areas it would traverse in Bataan and Pampanga provinces,” it added.
“We cannot afford to lose any more money especially at this time of the pandemic,” PGKM chair Ruperto Cruz said on the projected cost of the SCRP and the capacity of the government to repay the loan for it.
Cruz renewed Monday his group’s claims of a “seeming deception” on the part of the Department of Transportation and Communication in the realignment of the SCRP.
“Did (Transportation Secretary Arthur) Tugade come here to manipulate us,” he asked. “Why did they realign it? Are there sacred cows that they want to avoid?”
“We have been asking for five good reasons why the DOTr is realigning [SCRP] because it will hit so many subdivisions, commercial areas and even farmlands. Subdivision owners don’t like it. Farmers don’t like it. Businessmen don’t like it. Where will it pass through Clark? Will its crossover Friendship? Where will it end where will it start?” Cruz said. “Why has the DOTr failed to this day to address these issues we have raised?”
“I know that some members of the CILA (Clark Investors and Locators Association) don’t like it too but they are not moving because they are beholden to the BCDA (Bases Conversion and Development Authority),” he said.
Cruz said the SCRP “may not be able to stand public scrutiny, hence the total lack of any public hearing attendant to its planning.”
“All that was done was a table survey, not any study,” Cruz added.
Over the weekend, a “notice of public hearing” on the environmental impact assessment of the project with the Environmental Management Bureau was published in the legal noticers section of Philippine Star.
“The public hearing will be conducted on a virtual format (video conference) because of the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 in the region,” the notice said.
“It was a shotgun notice, sans any official invitation to the stakeholders or anyone with grave concern over the project,” Cruz said.
“Its being virtual already makes the hearing suspect as it would be easy to control and manipulate all discussions on the part of the administrator of the virtual conference,” he noted. “If what is being said is not to their liking, they can easily cut off the speaker and blame technical glitches.”
Cruz pointed out that the threat of the pandemic “is a lame excuse, given face-to-face meetings and even assemblies being conducted, especially political ones, in the region.”
Participation in zoom meetings or video conferences also required not only “technical savvy” but possession of at least a laptop or a good mobile phone, he said: “I have a laptop but I don’t know how to attend a Zoom meeting. What about the farmers? They don’t even have a laptop to start with.”
“If Tugade will insist on the realignment we will bring this before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and even to the Supreme Court,” Cruz vowed. “And he may just kiss his Senate dreams goodbye.”