Malaybalay wants ECC process to start at local gov’t

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/11 Dec.) – Companies should comply with requirements set by local government units, including social acceptability, before they may be granted environmental compliance certificates (ECC) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), an official said.

At present, companies apply for an ECC first before getting permits required by local governments.

Ma. Anita Fernandez, chief of the Malaybalay City Environment and Natural Resources Office said this process has posed problems for the city government in terms of addressing the negative impact of a firm’s operations.

“There is a big gap since the process was reverted. It might be good for business but not for the local environment,” she told MindaNews after speaking at the city council Tuesday during a hearing on environmental protection measures being applied by agricultural plantations.

It was the third of such hearing by the city council in response to the flooding in October in Barangays Aglayan and Cabangahan.

The flooding was mainly blamed on the presence of agricultural plantations in Malaybalay’s upland areas.

Fernandez noted that some companies no longer applied for permits at the city government after getting their ECCs.

She added many firms are operating in areas for which they have no ECCs or business permits.

She said they will recommend to the DENR to reverse the process, that is, start the ECC process at the level of local government units.

“They can try it with us in Malaybalay City first,” she added.

Fernandez, a former DENR employee, explained that previously companies applying for ECCs had to go through the social acceptability process first.

According to the Revised Procedural Manual for the DENR’s Department Administrative Order 2003-30, “no permits and or clearances issued by other national government agencies and local government units shall be required in the processing of ECC applications.”

But the same order does not exempt a proponent from securing other government permits and clearances as required by other laws.

Fernandez said the change in procedure has caused some problems in monitoring and enforcement, as the ECCs only contain “general provisions.

She said a company was able to obtain an ECC for an area that includes a portion with a very steep slope.

She said the use of very steep areas could have been avoided if the ECC process started with the local government, and it would have been spared the burden of undertaking mitigating measures for such practice.

Fernandez said they have required the companies to submit their environmental management plans for 2013 and 2014, to verify compliance with measures that would ensure environmental protection and soil conservation. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)