Published July 17, 2017, 10:00 PM By Myrna M. Velasco
President Rodrigo R. Duterte is requiring the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to submit new guidelines on the approval and issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) to energy projects of ‘national significance’ (EPNS) as stipulated under the Executive Order No. 30 of Malacañang.
The environment department is mandated to submit the EO-underpinning guidelines within 60 days from the Presidential Order’s publication – reckoned from July 5 this year.
Under Section 8 of EO 30, it was categorically stated that the approval of ECCs would be one of the policy matters to be tackled within the ambit of the propounded Energy Investment Coordinating Council (EICC) to be spearheaded by the Department of Energy.
According to Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella, the EICC will be institutionalized by August 4 this year – based on a timeframe prescribed by the EO.
But as far as issues and concerns relating to the ECC approvals of energy projects, he noted that discussion with DENR on the matter has yet to start – likely by month-end as targeted.
EO 30 has primarily stated that “the procedures for the issuance of ECCs which may be required for EPNS (energy projects of national significance) shall be among the matters to be discussed within the EICC.”
It further noted that “in light of such discussions, the DENR shall formulate guidelines on the issuance of such ECCs consistent with the objectives and provisions of (the) Order.”
The guidelines, it was specified, “shall be submitted to the Office of the President for approval within 60 days from the effectivity of (the) Order.”
At this stage, there is no certainty or categorical statements from concerned Executive departments yet if the ECC approvals would eventually be integrated as function of the powerful EICC.
Several energy projects, including big-ticket power plant development ventures, have been awaiting ECC approvals – but with the recent issuance of EO 30, investors are now seeking clearer policy directions from the government.
If the targeted streamlining of energy project approvals and permitting processes could be done right and efficiently operationalized, this will be a “major solution” to the decades-long struggles of many investors in the country.
On the whole, it will also be a landmark achievement of the Duterte administration – aside from it cornering the billions of dollars of investments that could ensure the country’s energy security agenda.