SONA 2016 PROMISE TRACKER: Environment

President Duterte promised a human approach in resolving environmental issues. He vowed to give the common folk better access to fishing grounds and cheap power supply, to hold big mining firms accountable for the destruction they cause, and to meet issues on waste and climate change head on.

Efforts to rehabilitate the Laguna Lake for the benefit of the poor have produced positive results, but a similar plan for the Carmona Sanitary Landfill has not materialized.

A technical cooperation project with Japan inherited from the previous administration involving waste-to-energy technology, is ready to take off.

The president overturned himself and gave full support to the Philippines’ ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change. He earlier expressed apprehension the deal would stymie the country’s industrialization.

One of the boldest measures the Duterte administration carried out was the review of operations and subsequent closure and suspension of several mines that were non-compliant with environmental regulations. This was part of the campaign by then Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who has been replaced after failing to get the nod of the Commission on Appointments.

We look deeper into the president’s promises on environment preservation:

On mining

PROMISE: "The DENR is likewise directed to review all permits granted to the mining, logging and other environmental sensitive activities to ensure compliance with government standards and if warranted—ito na yung pinakamaganda—amend, suspend or revoke permits."

Then Environment Sec. Gina Lopez ordered an industry-wide audit of the 41 operating metallic mines in the country. The assessment led to the closure of 23 large-scale mines and the suspension of five others for failing to meet environmental safety standards.

Lopez later announced that 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA) for mine sites operating within watershed areas were also facing cancellation.

The campaign against erring mining firms earned the ire of the industry, and big business questioned the objectivity of the on-going mine inspections.

This prompted the Ministry Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), to approve guidelines on the conduct of an “objective, fact-checking, science-based” review of mining operations nationwide.

The guidelines stated that reviews would be conducted by designated technical review teams (TRT), focusing on the technical, legal, social, environmental and economic aspects.

Each TRT is composed of five members:

1. Geologist/Mining Engineer/Metallurgical Engineer

2. Lawyer

3. Community Relations Officer

4. Economic representative of the local government unit hosting the mining operation, Department of Finance, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, National Economic Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development or other concerned government agencies

The MICC has also requested a P50 million budget from the Department of Budget and Management to fund a comprehensive review of mining contracts nationwide for the following year.

On April 27, a few days before her appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments (CA), Lopez issued Administrative Order No. 2017-10, banning all prospective open-pit mines in the country.

Lopez was replaced by retired general Roy Cimatu, who said the DENR will continue to “strictly enforce mining and environmental regulations” and those found violating laws, rules and regulations would be penalized, suspended and/or have their permits cancelled.

On streamlining the issuance of permits for power development

PROMISE: "I have directed the concerned regulatory agencies to prioritize the issuance of required permits for power development."

On June 28, the president signed Executive Order (EO) No. 30, creating the Energy Investment Cordinating Council (EICC), an interagency body, to spearhead the streamlining of the issuance of permits for energy projects of national significance (EPNS).

EPNS are defined as major energy projects for power generation, transmission and other related services endorsed by the DOE which have any of the following qualities:

- significant capital investment of at least P3.5 billion;

- significant contribution to the country’s economic development;

- significant consequential economic impact;

- significant potential contribution to the country’s balance of payments;

- significant impact on the environment;

- complex technical processes and engineering designs;

- significant infrastructure requirements

The processing time for the issuance of permits will be limited to 30 days, as stated in the EO.

On rehabilitating the Laguna Lake

PROMISE: " The Laguna Lake shall be transformed into a vibrant economic zone showcasing ecotourism by addressing the negative impact of the watershed destruction, land conversion and pollution. Ito ang nilagay ko. This is what I am telling: The poor fishermen will have priority in its entitlements."

The DENR has successfully cleared a total of 2,000 hectares in the Lake area, demolishing a total of 44 fish pens, cages and other illegal structures, as of June 2017. Clearing operations began two weeks after then Environment Secretary Gina Lopez imposed on January 26, 2016 a year-long moratorium on the issuance and renewal of all permits.

The department, through the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LDDA), has also evaluated and acted upon violations committed by operators of open dumpsites and industries that discharge untreated wastewater to the tributary rivers of the Lake. The LDDA issued a total of 733 Notices of Violation, 20 Ex-Parte orders and six Cease and Desist orders.

Following Duterte’s orders to turn the Lake into an ecotourism zone -- and therefore addressing the negative impact of watershed destruction, land conversion and pollution --the LLDA planted a total of 29,000 forest and fruit bearing seedlings.

On the closing of the Carmona Sanitary Landfill

PROMISE: "To have adequate disposal facilities for the Metro Manila Garbage, the final closure and rehabilitation of the Carmona Sanitary Landfill shall be pursued..."

The Solid Waste Management office of the Metro Manila Development Authority has a pending budget proposal for the closure and rehabilitation of the Carmona Sanitary Landfill, which is currently not functional, but there are no reports on whether rehabilitation of the facility has already been started.

Source: Belly Cabeso, senior environmental management specialist from the National Solid Waste Management Bureau of the DENR.

On exploring waste-to-energy technology

PROMISE: " The adoption of appropriate waste-to-energy facilities will be explored. Marami nyan."

The Philippines and Japan reached agreement on a DENR-proposed framework on capacity development on improving solid waste management through technologies such as waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities.

This puts the DENR in a good position to start the implementation, or phase 3 of the technical cooperation project (TCP) with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.

These WTE initiatives began during the Aquino administration at the first Japan-Philippines Environmental Dialogue held in October 2015 where the TCP was approved.

The government has since been conducting feasibility studies for possible sites for WTE facilities, particularly in Davao, Cebu and Quezon City.

On addressing climate change and global warming

PROMISE: "Addressing global warming shall all be our top priority, but upon a fair and equitable equation. It must not stymie our industrialization."

The Paris Agreement on climate change was ratified by the Senate in March 2017 in a historic vote that earlier seemed unlikely because of President Duterte’s initial opposition to the deal.

Duterte was against its ratification, saying it might impede the country’s industrialization plans. He reversed his position after his Cabinet unanimously voted in favor of the Agreement.

Find out how Duterte fared in other sectors here.


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