By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu has scrapped the order of former environment chief Regina Paz Lopez to restrict the issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECC) and instead orders to expedite it.
In the DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2017-18, Cimatu suspended indefinitely a previous DAO issued by Lopez that limited the authority to issue ECCs for both environmentally critical projects (ECPs) and non-ECPs only to the DENR Secretary.
To recall, Lopez issued the said DAO as part of her efforts to alleviate corruption within the DENR as well as prevent the unscrupulous issuance of ECCs to mining projects despite the moratorium.
Cimatu is particularly giving back the authority to issue such permits back to the director and regional directors of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), a line bureau of the DENR.
ECPs refer to development projects that have high potential for significant negative environmental impact. These include heavy and resource-extractive industries, such as mining, energy, and infrastructure projects.
ECAs, on the other hand, refer to national parks and sanctuaries, tourist spots, habitats of threatened wildlife species, tribal community areas, prime agricultural lands, and water bodies and other coastal and marine ecosystems.
An ECC is issued to certify that based on representations of the proponent, as reviewed and validated by the Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee, the proposed project or undertaking will not cause a significant negative environmental impact.
It also certifies that the proponent has complied with all the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment system and is committed to implement its approved Environmental Management Plan.
“In the interest of service and in order to expedite the issuance of the ECC in regional level consistent with the directive of the President to fast track issuance of government permits and licenses, [DAO] No. 2017-04 is hereby suspended indefinitely,” Cimatu’s administrative order reads.
It was in October last year when Lopez ordered the “intense evaluation” on as much as 800 ECCs that are “environmentally critical”.
The call for the audit on 800 ECCs came after DENR’s decision to suspend the environment permits of Austral-Asia Link Mining Corp. for its mining operation in Davao Oriental as well as that of Century Communities Corp.’s, which has a housing project inside the La Mesa Eco Park.