Malaybalay to create own environment monitoring team

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/28 June) – The City Government of Malaybalay is creating its own multi-partite monitoring team (MMT) to address the backlog in checking compliance of companies who obtained environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Ma. Anita Fernandez, chief of Malaybalay’s city environment and natural resource office (CENRO), told MindaNews via telephone Thursday the city government has to take action to ensure these companies are monitored, especially with the growing environmental risks.

The provincial multi-partite monitoring team of Bukidnon, she said, could no longer cope with the demand for annual inspections. She noted that of the 100 firms with ECCs in the city last year, the provincial MMT only managed to inspect about 15.

According to the EMB website, an ECC is the document certifying that based on the representations of the proponent, the proposed project or undertaking will not cause significant negative environmental impact.

The ECC also certifies that the proponent has complied with all the requirements of the environmental impact assessment (EIS) system and has committed to implement its approved environmental management plan.

The ECC contains specific measures and conditions that the project proponent has to undertake before and during the operation of a project, and in some cases, during the project’s abandonment phase to mitigate identified environmental impacts.

As a multi-partite team, each MMT should have representatives from the DENR, the project proponent, the local government units (including provincial, municipal or city and barangay levels) and accredited non-government organizations and the affected or vulnerable community.

Fernandez said that the local MMT is highly important for the city, which is, for example, facing flooding allegedly because of the expansion of fruit plantations in its farm lands.

The Malaybalay city council has passed a resolution in April imposing a moratorium on the expansion of agricultural plantations, citing environmental and agricultural concerns.

City Councilor Anthony Canuto Barroso, chair of the committees on agriculture and environmental protection, told MindaNews then that the resolution was in response to complaints from barangay councils against the fast conversion of farms into plantations and its effects on the environment and agricultural practices.

The resolution was unanimously approved. It was triggered by a privileged speech earlier delivered by Councilor Medardo Estaniel, president of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC). His speech echoed the questions raised by the ABC on the unregulated expansion of pineapple and banana plantations.

Fernandez said aside from the weak social acceptability requirement in obtaining an ECC, there is also a problem on monitoring the compliance.

“The problem could not have happened if only the social acceptability requirement is well in place and the nod of the local government unit is given more weight,” she added.

Fernandez said the city’s local MMT could at least help monitor the companies’ compliance.

She said the city government is in the process of drafting an executive order creating the MMT, a requirement set by the EMB in creating a local team.

The provincial MMT is the only multi-partite environment monitor in Bukidnon, a province of 464 barangays, 20 towns and two cities. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)