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  • Writer's pictureFranklin Vega

Public machinery opens private roads in Galapagos

The vegetation in Galapagos is cut down using municipal machinery.

An access road was enlarged without environmental permission in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and endemic plants were cut down. The Galapagos National Park has put forward a formal complaint of “offense against the native flora and fauna”. The hotel project HOGALAPAGOS in Punta Carola and construction work at La Predial bear testimony to the town administration’s lack of transparency.

Screenshots from google earth show the location of Punta Carola.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno needs attention in various areas. Its inhabitants have no sewage treatment to speak of or drinking water, and wastewater is discharged directly into the ocean contaminating Playa de Los Marinos. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the community has had to unite forces to defend natural areas on the island which have been damaged using municipal machinery.

The Minister of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition was recently made aware of the issue during a press conference that took place on May 5th during the World Surf Championship. A note published by TELEAMAZONAS reflects the declarations of the islanders. The issue at hand is a project planned by the enterprise Hotels and Tourism in Galapagos, HOGALAPAGOS S.A., which wants to build in Punta Carola, a still pristine natural area to the north of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

The project considers putting in place a complex similar to those existing in the Caribbean comprising two buildings with 64 rooms, 9 bungalows and 15 villas, a convention center, swimming pool, water massages, gym, spa, and a jetty, as in an Aruba or Dominican Republic style sun and beach hotel, only in the world’s best-preserved archipelago: Galapagos

A project denied three times

It’s curious that this particular project was excluded from those approved before 2015 when the Special Law for the Province of Galapagos was published (LOREG). Article 72 in this document indicates that “It is prohibited to build new tourist accommodation infrastructure or to expand the already existing ones which do not comply with the Hotel Regulation Plan established by the National Tourism Authority.”

A written reminder of this was presented by Jenny Quijozaca, spokesperson of the Community Assembly of San Cristobal, in an official letter (CGREG-P-2022-0434-OF on April 6, 2022) and signed by Katherine LLerena, President of the Galapagos Governing Council (CGREG).

The reasons for refusing the HOGALAPAGOS project are twofold. The Governing Council which is the entity in charge of drawing up plans in the province decided on the resolutions No.30- CGREG-04-IX-2015, on September 4th,2015 , and a second one on March 26, 2016. The arguments for refusing the project was the failure to comply with norms and requirements for the type of envisaged buildings.

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This implies that the request for approval of the project HOGALAPAGOS cannot be authorized in spite of the repeated insistence by the interested party.

Bitácora Ambiental attempted to obtain information from Mr. Gabriel Navas, president of HOGALAPAGOS S.A. and from Federico Angermeyer, shareholder of the company which attempts to make the hotel project a reality but received no response.

This is how HOGALAPAGOS S.A. is structured:

This is how HOGALAPAGOS S.A. is structured (source: Superintendencia de Companies)

The setup shows that the main shareholders are Federico Angermeyer, a well-known businessman in the Galapagos tourism industry with 51 percent, and the Punta Carola Trust the president of which is Gabriel Navas (who presents himself as Sandro in the islands) with 49 percent of the shares. Navas is also president of HOGALAPAGOS, of the Holding San Cristobal, the Holding Punta Carola, and the representative of the enterprise based in Panama which is registered as the owner of the Punta Carola Trust.

In the second issue of Bitacora Ambiental the members of the Punta Carola Trust, created in Panama in 2012, will be detailed once the makeup of the board at present has been verified. The list shows the names of former Galapagos institutional employees who could not be contacted yet.

A source in the Ministry of the Environment in Quito who asked not to be named confirms that Punta Carola has not been touched yet in spite of Sandro Navas’ insistence and that no building work will be authorized to go ahead until all legal requirements as stated in the Hotel Regulation Plan which the Ministry of Tourism is in charge of are complied with. It’s unlikely that this will ever be the case, but in Galapagos, it has happened before which is why the community is on alert.

A road to improve the access to the Hotel Project

In spite of the refusal of the project being official, the community is on alert and denounces construction work of an access road benefitting the hotel project HOGALAPAGOS. The location of the road is at La Predial, an area renowned as a marine iguana breeding site where native vegetation comprising many endemic species is still in place.

Municipal machinery of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno moving ground in the area of La Predial. The Galapagos National Park points out that no permission was given and that native and endemic plant species were taken down. Foto: Archivo Particular

A video by Radio Encantada explains in detail the impact of the machinery on vegetation and marine iguanas.

The confirmation of major Cobos contradicts the facts. Currently, the judicial process Nro 20331-2021-00365 against Mr. J.Caballero for cutting down what allegedly was 78 endemic and 68 native plants is in place. This occurred without the National Park’s permission.

The plants that were cut down with machetes and chain saw are matazarno, muyuyu (yellow cordia), palo santo (incense tree), algarrobo (Galapagos acacia), pega pega, arrayancillo (leatherleaf), monte salado (saltbush), algodoncillo (Galapagos cotton) and candelabro (Candelabre cactus). These species could be identified on the ground, cut with machetes and chain saw.

Las plantas, que fueron cortadas con machetes y motosierras, son matazarno, muyuyo, palo santo, algarrobo, pega pega, arrayancillos, monte salado y cactus candelabro. Los troncos se encontraron en el suelo, son evidencias de haber sido cortados con motosierra y machetes.

J. Caballero, allegedly responsible for the clearing and amplification of the road which partly runs through National Park land is now implied in taking out vegetation in a protected area.

The measure improved the access to the premises of HOGALAPAGOS.

At this time, the date for the audience on precautionary measures against J.Caballero who has acted as municipal contractor on other occasions is being determined.

Diego Cruz, councilman of San Cristobal, has requested in writing information on the use of municipal machinery on private property but has not obtained a response. “I have asked the mayor to produce the invoice showing the payment for renting the machinery and the purchase of stone material but have had no response. I have several doubts regarding the HOGALAPAGOS project and the amplification of the road that lead us to La Predial and Punta Carola.”

Machinery from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno's GAD carrying out earthworks in the Predial sector. The Galapagos National Park indicates that they did not have permits and that native and endemic species were felled. Photo: Private Archive.

While the process for illegal logging of native species is taking place, the inhabitants of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno complained yesterday about the contamination of the main beach.


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