Bukidnon environment monitor pushes for measurable ECC conditions

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 September) – Requirements for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to industries should be quantified to ensure easier monitoring, officials of the Bukidnon Multi-partite Environmental Monitoring Task Force (MMT) told MindaNews Monday.

Provincial board member Alfeo Baguio, task force chair, said they have relayed this proposal to the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the agency that approves and enforces ECCs.

But Baguio, who denied reports the local MMT has become inactive, said the change could be executed in 2014.

Robert Tado, a member of the MMT secretariat as chief of the Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources Office pollution control services, said it is difficult to measure compliance with the ECC if the conditions are not quantified.

He cited, for example, the provision to plant perennial trees and legumes in lot boundaries and bare fields to provide buffer against pesticide drift.

He said it is not clear how many trees and lines of legumes should be planted.

Tado said EMB regional director Sabdullah Abubacar supported the idea of quantifying ECC requirements during a workshop on best practices for soil conservation on Sept. 19 in Cagayan de Oro City.

Tado cited the importance of improving monitoring efficiency in Bukidnon especially for soil conservation with the onset of typhoons and siltation.

He said the conditions for companies on silt traps, tree plantations, catch basins, and contour canals should be quantified in their ECCs.

“It would be easier to check if they complied with quantitative targets,” Tado said.

Baguio told MindaNews that monitoring of compliance is one thing and monitoring of actions taken on their recommendations is another.

He said the DENR-EMB should tell them what has happened to the task force’s recommendations on violations.

In 2012 and 2013, he said, the MMT did not really know if all their recommendations were complied with.

Tado said the execution would take time because the companies involved have the right to due process.

But he admitted that many of their recommendations were undermined because the companies hired good lawyers to defend them.

He said many companies thought the ECC is already a permit and so did not bother getting local permits.

“The ECC is only a guideline for environmental management,” he clarified.

Another common violation is discharge permit for waste water from piggeries and poultry farms.

Tado said multinational companies usually didn’t have water use permits, and they blamed it on the long process to obtain a permit from the National Water Resources Board.

He said each violation carries a penalty of P50,000.

He noted that over the years the regular inspections have made the companies “more conscious of their compliance because of the local monitoring mechanism.”

But he admitted that they were unable to visit all the ECC holders due to constraints like availability of members among others.

In 2012, the MMT monitored only 27 of 43 pineapple and banana plantations and 40 of 325 piggeries and poultry farms in the province.

Tado said they would prioritize the areas they failed to visit in the previous years and those with violations to check compliance with recommendations.

The MMT was created in 2002 to monitor compliance with ECCs. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)