Published January 10, 2017, 10:00 PM By Madelaine B. Miraflor
All companies that need to obtain environmental clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be slapped with a stricter set of conditions and policies from now on.
A statement on Tuesday showed that the DENR is adopting a stricter policy in the issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) to ensure that future development projects will not cause significant negative impact on the environment.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said that from now on, the DENR will make sure that specific measures and conditions are first met by project proponents before ECCs are issued to them.
This, since it has already been a long-standing practice that the ECCs can already be issued even if certain conditions are yet to be complied with by project proponents.
“If any ECC is cancelled now, it has to be withdrawn in the legal parameters at that time. But for the future, we are saying that if any ECC is given, it should not be given unless all the conditions are first met,” Lopez said.
The DENR recently cancelled a total of six ECCs, issued show cause orders against 12 development projects, and denied one ECC application.
According to Lopez, the DENR’s decision to cancel, deny or grant an ECC is “based on social justice.”
“Social justice, in the context of the DENR, means that the use of the land benefits the greater majority, benefits the common good. But, when the environment is destroyed, it is the poor people around the area who suffer,” the DENR chief said.
ECC is a certificate issued by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau following a positive review of the ECC application.
This certifies that based on the application of the proponent, the proposed project or undertaking will not cause a significant negative impact on the environment.
The certificate contains specific measures and conditions that must be met by the proponent before and during the operation of the project.
In some cases, conditions are listed to be performed during the project’s abandonment phase to lessen identified potential environmental impacts.
One of those cancelled was the ECC issued to Century Communities Corporation for its Novaliches housing project, which is located on the La Mesa Watershed.
The DENR also cancelled the ECCs given to Palawan-based mining firms Ipilan Nickel Corp. and Lebach Mining Corp., as well as Davao-based Core Mining Corp. and Austral-Asia Link Mining Corp., and Donggwang Clark Corporation in Pampanga.
Maria Paz Luna, the designated DENR undersecretary for legal affairs, said that contrary to its claim, Austral-Asia’s mining site is only five kilometers away from a habitat of the endangered Philippine eagle.
“This is a signal that the DENR is no longer to keep on waiting for conditions to be fulfilled until we issue adverse findings,” Luna said.
Meanwhile, the DENR has directed Benguet Corp. to explain why its ECC should not be cancelled for its Antamok open-pit mine in Itogon, Benguet in its “failure to rehabilitate the open pit site for 25 years” and “negligence leading to a toxic spill to 1.8-km river in Cordillera.”
The agency also issued show cause orders to Sinophil Mining and Trading Corp., LaFarge Mindanao (formerly Mindanao Portland Cement Corp.), Philippine Sinter Corp., Century Peak Corp. (on two projects), Filipinas Systems Inc., Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp., Wan Chiong Steel Corp., Wellex Mining Corp., PhiGold Metallic Ore Inc., and Hantex Manufacturing Corp.
At the same time, the DENR denied the ECC application of Egerton Gold Philippines for its project in Lobo, Batangas due to incompatibility of its operations with the Verde Island Passage, which is considered the “global center of the center of the marine biodiversity of the planet.”
“Yearly, hundreds of new marine species are found in the Verde Passage. Any kind of mining or coal plant would adversely affect the area, which, if maneuvered well, could bring on the uplift of the entire area and be a gift to humanity,” Lopez concludes.