4 Questions on General Santos City’s Draft Environment Code Chapter on EIA

CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
22 March 2017

Hon. Beth Bagonoc, Envt Cttee Chair, SP Gen.Santos City

from : http://spgensantos.ph

 

The Environment Committee of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of General Santos City, led by Hon. Beth Bagonoc, led the 23rd hearing of the Committee on the agenda item concerning the Environmental Impact Assessment or EIA Chapter of the draft Environment Code of General Santos City and the good Kagawad invited the Passionist Center-Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Inc., a non-stock, non-profit organization among its invitees to the public hearing for the draft ordinance.

We have attached below in an Annex to this post, the draft Chapter, so that interested readers may be guided on the issues that we have raised during the public hearing, which may also serve as a documentation of the exchange and perhaps may also be useful for future reference if what we have suggested will be carried out, which is up to the Honorable legislators of the city, if they see there is a wisdom in doing so. The issues, packaged as questions, we raised today were :

1) What is the policy objective of the Sanggunian in coming up with this chapter on the EIA?

The question was asked so that it will be clear what is the purpose of the provisions laid out in the Chapter which reads suspiciously like a rehashed re-wording of what are already in existing laws on EIA, which the Chapter copiously cites.

In this seemingly repetitive re-reading of what’s already in our existing rules and regulations, what then will this chapter of EIA accomplish, just to say that existing rules on EIA apply or to carry out the policy objective of the City on matters relating to EIA in General Santos City’s history.

In our explanation, to see how the City may benefit whether there needs to be a further specification of the rules on EIA in the City, it may be useful to gather the experience of the City in previous environmental battles the City has had, like the policy fight in late 90s on whether to approve genetically-modified corn in the City, and this we failed to mention this morning, but is also relevant in the discussion, how did the City learn from its attempt to clarify whether the EIA for the coal-fired power plant that is now already operating in Kamanga, Maasim, has been approved and the way the proponents of the coal-fired power plants tried to, what some legislators then dubbed as a mis-direction (if it can be recalled, the Sanggunian then was told that the EIA was approved but this was approved in the DENR Central Office, but no copy can be given to those legislators who were asking for that document during a Sanggunian hearing) is some lesson that the City legislators may want inputted in the draft Chapter on EIA.

The point of this recall of the City’s history with EIA is to see what is the space for the city to come in and ask for a specific EIA for a project to which the city has some environmental concerns, does the city have to do it separately or the city only comes in when the other national agencies decide this is not needed but the city wishes to have it done separately. Answering this question will lead us to the next question, actually.

2) Will the EIA requirement of the City be an additional EIA requirement on top of what the DENR is already requiring under existing regulations ?

Depending on the policy objective of the draft Envi Code or the Chapter on EIA, it may be that the EIA requirement in this Chapter of the draft Envi Code may be in addition to the EIA that is already required by existing DENR rules. Or it may only come in during specific circumstances like when the national agencies EIA is not necessary and the city decides to do EIA in spite of that, for its own policy reasons. If it’s the latter, this has to be spelled out in the Chapter, which for now does not clearly appear in the current wording of the Chapter in our Annex below.

At this juncture during the hearing, we brought forward an opportunity where the city may innovate and lead the way forward in matters relating to environmental assessment, and this is to do instead a distinct and separate process called Strategic Environmental Assessment, which is similar in content but not in approach to an EIA and its focus is on reviewing existing policies of the city, like its investment ordinances, or even its implementing of its own ordinance on solid waste management, which, based on the updates of PC-JPIC on its partners in Calumpang this City, is not being implemented well, if all the smelly dumping sites of companies operating in Calumpang would be an indicator.

3) How will social acceptability be determined ?

During the hearing, there were some discussion on whether social acceptability should be a part of the Chapter on EIA, and while it was not denied by the resource person that it is a difficult thing to do, what we said is that there are various approaches on how a social acceptability of a project is done and in the Philippines, at least during my time working with NGOs, there are myriad ways to determine that like community juries, community consultations, including technology assessments, just to broaden the various approaches this is done, though ultimately the goal should be to determine accurate what is the sentiment of the affected communities about an activity to be subjected to EIA

4) What about the precautionary principle?

Finally, we pointed out that EIA is a tool to determine when action should be taken on an activity that may harm the environment and one of the principles that may help to make the EIA a useful process is to include the precautionary principle such that whenever there’s a potential harm to the environment in General Santos City, this is one way the Sanggunian can respond to the challenge.

The precautionary principle tells the City when an activity should be stopped if it appears that an activity is about to harm the environment, there are ways this can be done but this is a key principle that will make the EIA a useful chapter in the draft Environment Code of the City.

oOo

ANNEX

ARTICLE XVII
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT

SECTION. 1. This Article shall be known as the “ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT”.
SEC. 2.SCOPE OF EIA SYSTEM. The implementation of environmental impact assessment by local government units refer to the powers, duties and functions of the Municipal Mayor, City Mayor and Provincial Governor to adopt adequate measures to safeguard and conserve land, mineral, marine, forest and other resources, as provided under Sections 389(b)(9), 444(b)(3)(v), and 465(b)(3)(v) of RA 7160, Section 12, of the NIPAS Act or RA 7586; Section 17(b)(3)(iii) and Section 17(b)(4) to the provincial and city government, respectively; and RA 10654 or the Fisheries Code of the Philippines.
Subdivided into our (4) categories:
Category A: For Environmentally Critical projects (ECP’s) which will require an ECC.
Category B: For Environmentally Critical Areas (ECA’s) which will require and ECC.
Category C: Projects not falling under Category A or B intended to directly enhance the quality environmental problems. It only require a Project Description Report of which the EMB Office will issue a letter stating theat the project is within category C.
Category D: Artificial Reef restoration/deployment, Pollution Control Devices or facilities required on ECC condition, Pollution control devices or similar facilities intended to prevent emission or discharged beyond allowable limits, preventive of proactive measures against potential natural hazard (e.g. shore protection, embarkment, private dredging, seawall, etc.)
SEC. 3.GOVERNING LAWS. The pertinent laws governing environmental impact assessment are:
a.) Presidential Decree 1152, entitled “Consolidating the Philippine Environment Code”;
b.) RA 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991;
c.) Presidential Decree No. 1586 (Environmentally Critical Areas-ECAS: Areas frequently visited by natural calamities, Prime Agricultural Lands, Water bodies, Mangrove Areas and Coral Reefs, Areas declared Certificate of Ancestral Land Titles/Certificate of Ancestral Domain Certificate; Areas with Critical Slopes; Recharged Areas for Aquifers; Watershed Reserves and all protected areas)
d.) Environmental Critical Projects (ECPs): Heavy industries – metal industries, iron and steel mills, petroleum and petro-chemical industries including oil and gas and smelting plants; Resource Extractive Industries – Major mining and quarrying industries, forestry projects, fishery products.
e.) RA 7586 or “The National Integrated Protected Areas System Act), Sec. 12
f.) RA 6969 or “The Toxic and Hazardous Waste Law”

SEC. 4. OPERATIVE PRINCIPLES. The City government recognizes the need for an effective instrument for ensuring environmental soundness of agro-industrial and ecotourism projects thereby maintaining a rational and orderly balance between economic growth and community development in the city and, as such, hereby adopts the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) system provided under Presidential Decree No. 1586.
Specifically, the following basic process for ensuring environmental soundness of all development projects as identified under PD 1586 are hereby adopted:
a.) EIS Preparation and Approval. The stage in the EIS system wherein an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is undertaken and data are gathered using accepted scientific methods to clarify key issues and concerns, characterize the environmental setting of the project, predict the impact of the project on the setting, and measure the social acceptability of the project. The resulting EIA document will be reviewed by DENR EIA. The ECC may be granted under certain conditions and includes the implementation of an environment management plan.
The City mayor shall fully exercise his powers to ensure that a public hearing shall be conducted for all projects defined under PD 1586, as a condition precedent to ECC issuance.
b.) Scoping refers to the stage in the EIS system where information and assessment requirements are established to provide the proponent with a scope of work for the EIS.
c.) EIA Monitoring. There is hereby created a seven-member multipartite EIA Monitoring Team which shall be organized and headed by the Governor or his duly authorized representative and whose permanent members include one representative from DENR EMB 12, project operator/developer and two (2) on-call members from the private sectors determined by the City Mayor on a project-specific basis.

SEC. 5. FUNCTIONS OF THE MULTI-PARTITE MONITORING TEAM (MMT).
1) The team shall monitor compliance of project based on the Environmental Management Plans, conditions set forth in the ECC and permits issued by DENR-EMB 12;
2) Gather relevant information to determine cause of damage and respond to public complaints about the project; prepare, integrate and disseminate monitoring status reports; and undertake community information and education dissemination. Further, the team shall:
a.) Participate in scoping activities;
b.) Validate scoping sessions;
c.) Participate in public consultation and hearing;
d.) Conduct regular inventory of establishments, and
e.) Submit written monthly status report to the City Mayor
3) Serve as secretariat and assist EIA preparers

SEC. 6.CONDUCT OF SCOPING SESSIONS. The concerned agencies shall assist the EIA preparers in identifying the stakeholders that shall be involved in the scoping sessions.
SEC. 7. CONDUCT OF PUBLIC CONSULTATION AT THE BARANGAY LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNIT (BLGU). The Stakeholders and concerned agencies shall be invited for public consultation on the proposed project to be concurred by the Sangguniang Panlungsod.
SEC. 8.LAW ENFORCEMENT AND MONITORING. The MMT and the DENR shall work together to ensure the compliance of Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) including annual inventory of existing establishments and projects within the City to ascertain whether these have complied with the EIA and ECC requirements.
SEC. 9. IEE COMPLIANCE FOR PROJECTS NOT COVERED BY THE EIA SYSTEM. All projects defined under PD 1586 which are proposed to be undertaken in the city , including those not required by national law to secure ECC and therefore not covered by the EIA System pursuant to PD 1586, shall be subject to an Initial Environment Examination (IEE), in addition to submission of additional environmental safeguards pursuant to DENR Administrative Order 37-96; PROVIDED, that the City Mayor shall issue a circular identifying those projects not covered by the EIA System which shall be the subject to IEE in accordance with this provision; PROVIDED FURTHER, that the City Mayor shall also submit his proposed measure for legislative enactment to the Sangguniang Panlungsod, including recommendations for sanctions, penalties, and /or charges for violation of this provision, within nine (9) months upon the effectivity of this Code.
SEC. 10.TRAINING. The members of the MMT shall be required to undergo training on the different aspects of monitoring work as prescribed by law.
SEC.11. ENVIRONMENT GUARANTEE FUND AND ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING FUND. The MMT shall participate in the negotiation and review of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the project developed and concerned parties as prescribed by law for the establishment of an Environmental Guarantee Fund (EGF) and Environmental Monitoring Fund (EMF) for projects creating significant public risk.

oOo

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