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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Environmentalists decry destruction of nature reserve for TV production

By John McPhaul

The Pro-Northeast Ecological Corridor (NEC) Coalition said the environmental organization learned Monday that construction work that has impacted a considerable area of the NEC Nature Reserve was done to make way for the filming of the television series “Fantasy Island,” starring Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sánchez.

“The destruction of our natural resources is not a fantasy, but a reality that we must all reject,” the coalition said in a press release.

The complaints were made after members of the organization asked Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to order Gabriel Hernández Rodríguez, the assistant secretary of the Permits Office (OGPe by its Spanish acronym), and Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Cidre Miranda to immediately repeal a permit that has resulted in the total destruction of vegetation and compaction of the soil in a natural reserve property.

They state that the permit violates the NEC Nature Reserve Law of 2012, the land uses permitted in the NEC Nature Reserve Sector Plan of 2015, and the executive order (OE-2022- 004) signed last January by the governor reaffirming the public policy aimed at the preservation, conservation and restoration of this area of exceptional ecological value.

“We strongly request actress Roselyn Sánchez, who has distinguished herself for her commitment to the welfare of pets and other animals, as well as Sony Pictures Television, Gemstone Studios, and Fox Entertainment, co-producers of ‘Fantasy Island,’ not to use the property of impacted land and not be complicit in the barbarity that the owners of Colonial Parking have committed,” said Nilda García, president of the Pro-NEC Coalition. “Especially when this is not the first time that this area of the Corridor has been destroyed, fostered by impunity due to the inaction of the agencies that are supposed to be responsible for enforcing law and order.”

The permit granted by OGPe was issued to the company Colonial Parking Corp., which is owned by Miguel A. Cabral Veras, for the construction of a parking lot to be used for the filming of the series at El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo.

The coalition president also urged the management of El Conquistador Resort to cease the use of the impacted space in the NEC to facilitate the operations of the inn. “One of the main attractions of this hotel, as well as of the rest of the tourist industry on our island, are our beaches, forests and other natural areas,” García said. “Therefore, they must strive to be better corporate citizens, not only because they are inflicting harm on themselves, but also by sponsoring the destruction of resources that are protected by law for the enjoyment of visitors and residents of Puerto Rico alike.”

The NEC Nature Reserve Act (Act No. 126 of June 25, 2012, as amended) establishes as a public policy of the Puerto Rico government the designation as a nature reserve of the area called the Northeast Ecological Corridor, providing that any activity or use proposed on its land, “will be subject to and will give priority to its preservation, restoration and conservation.”

The NEC Nature Reserve consists of some 3,000 acres of land along the coast of Luquillo and Fajardo, at the foot of El Yunque. It is home to coral communities, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps, including one of the few remnants of coastal forest with characteristics similar to those found in Puerto Rico prior to Spanish colonization. The presence of over 865 species of flora and fauna has been documented in the area, including 53 identified as rare, vulnerable or in danger of extinction, some unique to Puerto Rico.

The beaches of the NEC are among the most important for the nesting of the leatherback, a species of sea turtle in danger of extinction, in the U.S. jurisdiction.

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