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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

MVC lawmaker sets up protest camp at cave in Aguadilla

Rep. Mariana Nogales Molinelli

By The Star Staff

Citizen Victory Movement Rep. Mariana Nogales Molinelli established a camp on Monday near the main entrance of the Las Golondrinas cave in Aguadilla to protest construction work that opponents say is damaging the environment.

The legislator said the camp was to demand a stop to the destruction of Las Golondrinas cave, a mogote or limestone deposit, and the easement of the railroad tracks and government facilities. She also complained of the continuous flow of sediments and runoff from the topsoil and fill removal activities affecting the marine ecosystem and activities obstructing the public railroad line called Camino Cuesta los Lazos.

She said Cliff Corp. President Carlos Román González, the developer, has destroyed the environment with impunity. She said he has appropriated public domain assets, silenced politicians with juicy donations, closed the Cuesta los Lazos Public Road, invaded the property of several adjoining residents while installing fences and walls on other people’s farms, hindered administrative and judicial procedures and destroyed the historic tunnel through which an old train track ran.

“There are judicial and administrative procedures against these construction works before the courts, the DNER [the island Department of Natural Environmental Resources], OGPe [the Permits Management Office] and the EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency], as well as required procedures before agencies such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and, nevertheless, nothing happens,” Nogales Molinelli said in a written statement.

“Environmental crime continues,” she said. “How have decrees from the Department of Economic Development and incentives for millions of dollars been obtained? How did you get incentives from the Tourism Company for $10 million for a tourism project that turned out to be residential?”

“While all this is happening, numerous deaths of swallows have been verified in violation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty, Title 16 sections 703-712 USC, and trees located on public domain property and close to the cliff that housed swallows’ nests have been cut down,” the legislator added.

Nogales Molinelli, an attorney, detailed the various steps that have been taken to stop the destruction but have yet to be effective or are hindered by various actors.

“On September 14, 2022, at the request and in collaboration with the community and organizations that protect the environment, I introduced House Resolution 830 to investigate these illegal construction works, which was unanimously approved on November 14. Immediately, I sent a letter to the Natural Resources Committee, chaired by representative Edgardo Feliciano, requesting that the resolution be heeded and that an onsite inspection and public hearings be scheduled as soon as possible,” she said. “However, on December 19, the committee informed me that it will not deal with House Resolution 830 because ‘it wasn’t a priority.’ Nothing has been done.”

The lawmaker continued to point out that “We know that the mayor has a close relationship with Román González and received campaign donations from him.”

“In addition, the destroyer has donated to NPP [New Progressive Party] and PDP [Popular Democratic Party] campaigns,” Nogales Molinelli said. “The DNER is also conducting the investigation of complaint 22-116-CCS, which determined that Román González has to demolish the structures that he recklessly and illegally erected on top of the Las Golondrinas cave, causing the system to be unstable, and that the demolition must be done with the necessary supervision so as not to further affect the stability of the cave. There the reports and the interventions of the [DNER] rangers date from 2017 onwards, but at this point, there has been no compliance with these orders either.”

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