Malaybalay City wants clearer ECC terms for agri firms

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/28 Nov.) — The city council is eyeing an ordinance that will make it easier to monitor the adherence of agricultural companies to the terms of the environmental compliance certificates (ECC) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In a hearing on Tuesday, Vice Mayor Roland Deticio said the current ECCs does not quantify the provisions on silt traps, tree plantations and other measures that would mitigate the impact of an agricultural company’s operations.

The hearing, which was attended by officials of Del Monte Philippines Inc. and Lapanday Diversified Products Corp. aimed to draw out measures that will ensure environmental protection.

Deticio clarified the city government does not intend to duplicate the DENR’s function of issuing ECCs.

He told MindaNews the firm’s ECCs have vague provisions, which pose problems to enforcing measures related to proper soil management and flood control.

The vice mayor cited, for instance, that the ECCs simply provides that trees should be planted in the buffer zone but doesn’t specify how many trees should be planted per hectare.

Del Monte and Lapanday presented the measures they have done to mitigate soil erosion and flooding.

Dole Skyland, Sumifru Philippines Inc. and Nature’s Fresh were scheduled to attend the hearing next week.

After the hearings, Deticio said, they will pass an ordinance to address flooding in the area.

But he stressed that the upcoming ordinance would not affect the city’s moratorium on the expansion of plantations approved last year.

In September, the Bukidnon Multipartite Monitoring Team cited the need to quantify provisions of the ECCs for easier enforcement.

At least 360 families or over 500 individuals were affected after floods hit the adjoining barangays of Aglayan and Cabangahan on October 5.

The barangay chairmen of the two villages blamed the floods on Lapanday, and called on the firm to stop operations in certain areas

But Lapanday officials maintained during the hearing that they had complied with mitigation measures. They said the volume of water was really big that flooding was unavoidable.

Deticio countered that no flooding occurred in these areas before the plantations came.

Ma. Anita Fernandez, chief of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, told the hearing that flood and soil erosion control measures should start during land preparation.

In her report to the city council on October 22, Fernandez recommended the establishment of “specific guidelines/standards for instituting mitigating measures /environmental conservation to be strictly followed by the company”.

Her report recommended allotting 10 percent of a plantation’s land area as buffer zone, along with a specific number of silt traps per hectare depending on slope and elevation, imposition of slope or elevation limit, among others.

Fernandez said a company may be allowed to use an area with a slope of 12 percent and above if it can present a “comprehensive soil erosion mitigation plan…prepared and applied with the close monitoring of the city multipartite monitoring team and the barangay concerned.”

“Expansion of plantations in the upper portion of Aglayan and other barangays, in areas with high elevation and critical slopes, should be strictly regulated,” her report said.

It added the firms should install silt traps, check dams and catchment basins.

Fernandez also recommended designing a viable land-use program and eco-friendly farming practices to discourage landowners from leasing their lands to agricultural firms. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)