Sponsorship Speech HB 3836 (EIA Bill)

Sponsorship Speech HB 3836 (EIA Bill)

Rep. Kaka J. Bag-ao, AKBAYAN Partylist

Delivered on August 17, 2011 / RV Mitra 3 & 4

 

 

Magandang Umaga sa Inyong Lahat!

The Environmental Impact Assessment system was introduced in Philippine Legislation in 1978, as Presidential Decree 1586. The policy of reconciling “exigencies of socio-economic undertakings with the requirements of environmental quality” was the cornerstone of this seminal regulatory measure.

The idea was set. A license in the form of an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) must be secured before an entity can undertake a project with adverse effects to the environment. ‘An EIA is required before an ECC can be issued. No ifs. No buts.’ seemed to be a staunch commitment to environmental protection in the 70s. Since then, implementing agencies were established. Environmentally critical areas were identified. Funds were allocated. It was the birth of a green era, of decision-makers taking into consideration environmental repercussions of development, and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was part of it.  But as its birth saw the promise of a green Philippines, its evolution, as any of our environmental laws, soon cowered into our very own investment-hungry policies.

After PD 1586, the EIA system has evolved into a cobweb of administrative issuances sans a single framework for implementation. We have had Proclamation 2146, DENR Circulation No. 3, series of 1983, EO 291, DENR Administrative Order 37 series of 1996, 21 series of 1992, EO 342, Golf Course Committee Resolution 1 of 1997, all issued in the vague attempt to “strengthen” EIA. The current implementing order, and the relatively most comprehensive, DENR Administrative Order No. 30, series of 2003 merely streamlined the EIA process. Environmentalists say that it was done so, so that investors could easily comply.

EIA still regulates individual activities disregarding the cumulative effects of several projects, uses an insufficient mapping of environmentally critical areas, and lacks penal provisions making compliance only directory and not mandatory. For industrialists and corporations, the EIA is just another paper work, they can hurdle, no sweat.

It is without surprise that even if we have laid down the principles for EIA since the 70s, we still have mining sites in watersheds, quarrying in key biodiversity areas, logging in wildlife reserves. Isn’t it because our EIA system, in reality, is just a tokenistic concession to an environmental we do not sincerely intend to protect?

Mr. Chair, members of the Committee, House Bill No. 3836 or the “EIA Act of 2011” addresses the core problems of our current EIA system. The coverage of the potential adverse impact test of this proposed version enumerates projects and areas which are environmentally critical. Included are the “No Go Zones” which are in conformity with other proposed green legislations pending in this House: the Land Use Act, the Forest Resources Bill, and the Minerals Management Bill. HB 3836 forms part of the grand legislative intent to establish a uniform green framework to govern our different and emerging environmental concerns and vulnerabilities.

Moreover, HB 3836 also provides that a single ECC shall be required of all co-located projects in order to assess their synergistic and cumulative environmental impact. Community consent, also, shall be a condition precedent to the approval of any program and project.

Furthermore, aside from cancellation of ECC and Certificates of Non-Coverage (CNC), this bill proposes different penalties for corresponding violations of the ECC, to wit: criminal liability to the Chief Operating or Executive officer of the errant firm for five (5) years to ten (10) years, a fine in the amount of 200% of its authorized capital or 400% of its gross profits, as well as financial guarantees for clean-up rehabilitation of areas damaged and injuries to communities.

Finally, Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee, the ultimate import of this bill is to put a congressional fiat to the EIA system. Our vision of a green Philippines should not subjected to vacillating pronouncements of government agencies, oftentimes conflicted with the interest to accelerate investment flow in the country. Our commitment to sustainable development should not be subject of any compromise. We should pass HB 3836 and other proposed legislations aiming to protect our environment. Protection of the environment sure was a well-meaning vision in the 70s, but today in 2011, with climate change and the onslaught of unprecedented environmental disasters, my dear colleagues, we might not actually have a choice.

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