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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Gov’t enforcing stricter environment rules

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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is enforcing stricter regulations on the environment to preserve the ecological integrity of protected areas and their unique features.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources as a start suspended all Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) applications for projects located in protected areas (PA).

DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga

DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga in a press briefing said all ECC applications will be reviewed first before approval by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). Loyzaga made the announcement after visiting the Mount Apo Natural Park in Digos City, Davao del Sur.

“We have issued a memo on all the regions that has PAs, (we suspend for now the) processing of any ECCs, and any future ECCs now for the PA will have to be escalated to central office,” Loyzaga said.

“Part of that is no ECCs can be processed without the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) giving its approval,” she added.

The DENR also canceled its agreement with the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI) for violating the provisions of the tenurial instrument awarded in June 2004 covering 353 hectares in the Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (SIPLAS) in Surigao del Norte.

The DENR nullified Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA) No. 74007 entered into with SBSI, citing violations.

These included the establishment of settlements or residences in the PACBRMA area and checkpoints strictly regulating the entry of non-members, infrastructure such as new access roads, communal quadrangle with a basketball court, volleyball court, and a stage with bleacher and a wave pool.

The DENR has been working with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the provincial government since the suspension of the PACBRMA in September 2023.

The collaborative team is working on the reintegration and resettlement of affected occupants. There are 404 households of tenured migrants in the PACBRMA area that will be relocated.

Loyzaga, meanwhile, said two resorts built inside the protected area of the Mount Apo Natural Park were found to have incomplete documents and permits for operation. The DENR has not issued any closure order pending the review.

Loyzaga issued a March 26 directive to DENR regional offices and field operations nationwide, as well as to the bureau directors of the EMB and the BMB on the ECC suspension

The memorandum contains directives on the strict monitoring of existing structures and the approval of ECCs for projects within protected areas.

DENR regional offices were directed to conduct an inventory of existing structures within PAs and evaluate compliance with environmental regulations and standards.

They were also directed to comprehensively review all ECCs issued for projects within PAs.

Loyzaga said the directive was consistent with the objective of the Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System (ENIPAS), recognizing the critical importance of protecting and preserving the ecological integrity of all natural, biological, physical diversities and unique features of the environment within PAs.

Loyzaga issued the memorandum after a photo of a resort within the famous Chocolate Hills, a protected area in Bohol province, went viral in social media in February. With PNA

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