White powdery beaches and pristine blue water, fresh seafood, Lingganay Point, Masaba Falls, Lantaw Palompon, Kalanggaman and Tabuk islands, and L and L Cove, Rock Resort. These are the images—relaxing and delightful—that come to mind when you think of visiting Palompon, Leyte, a second-class municipality on the island’s western coast.
But now these positive images will have to make way, albeit temporarily, for some uncomfortable news.
A resident of Barangay San Miguel in Palompon by the name of Henry I. Encarnacion filed with the Office of the Ombudsman last Oct. 18, 2023 a case against Palompon Mayor Ramon C. Oñate, former Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator Isagani Jaena, former forest ranger Terence Osmeña, na and former Municipal and Environment Resource Officer Raoul Bacalla.
Encarnacion alleged that his complaint is criminal in nature because Mayor Oñate allegedly violated the Revised Forestry Code, the Expanded NIPAS Act, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act and the Water Code of the Philippines.
He also said his complaint is an administrative case against Oñate’s commission of acts constituting senior dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
In his complaint, Encarnacion alleged that the four respondents “initiated the updating of, and passing of, said defective Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) in 2017 absent the approved Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP) where the land use of Barangay San Joaquin was conveniently and erroneously classified as Industrial Zone to accommodate Mayor Oñate’s business interest in Lot No. 5143 in the said Barangay.”
The complainant also alleged that “By misrepresenting that Lot 5143 is located within an industrial zone, deliberately disregarding the environmental transgressions and refusing to take appropriate actions, Mayor Oñate, Jaena, Bacalla and Osmeña exhibited manifest partiality and extended undue favors to Zachary Farms and DBSN Breeder Farms at Barangay San Joaquin, Palompon.”
Encarnacion alleged that “based on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) of the Municipality of Palompon for the years 2003 to 2013, the land use of Barangays Rizal, Taberna, Lat-osan, Cambacbac, including Barangay San Joaquin, was timberland. This is also in consonance with the 1927 Land Classification Map of DENR and Proclamation No. 212 issued in 1988 by former President Corazon Aquino proclaiming the PWFR (Palompon Watershed Forest Reserve) covering said Barangays.”
The complainant told the Office of the Ombudsman headed by Ombudsman Samuel Martinez that on June 19, 2018, Mrs. Lourdes Oñate, wife of the mayor and alleged owner of DBSN Farms and Agriventures, was issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for her poultry buildings, layers farm and other businesses in the land that was excluded from the watershed and later declared as industrial area by the municipal government.
The lot was later titled, Encarnacion alleged, and was even made as security for a loan obtained from Land Bank, the proceeds of which were used to further the firm’s industrial business operations in Lot 5143.
The complainant also alleged that “corruption is apparent when the rezoning was purposely done to further the business interest of DBSN. Having been rezoned, DBSN can now procure a Locational Clearance, serving as a prerequisite in the issuance of Business Permit to guarantee that its operation is in compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. The grant of Locational Clearance is a pre-condition for the subsequent issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificate for DBSN.”
The complaint of Encarnacion further alleged that the three plants — DBSN Breeder Farm in San Joaquin, the DBSN Dressing Plant in Barangay Antiplo, Albuera, Leyte and Zachary farms in Barangay Lat-osan in Palompon—violated environmental laws.
He noted that as early as April 3, 2017, the Sangguniang Barangay of Barangay Tinag-an, Albuera, Leyte endorsed a petition to DENR calling for concrete action against DBSN Farms for discharging waste into the river and releasing obnoxious odor which poses a significant threat not only to health but also to livelihood of residents.
As to our take on these facts, we are sure Mayor Oñate is ready for his answers on these issues raised by one of his constituents in Barangay San Miguel. This column, View from Calumpang, and OpinYon Region 8 both welcome any reply or reaction from Oñate and the other respondents in this case, as we are duty bound to give them space, too.
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