MANILA, Philippines – Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Frank Cimatu suspended the order issued by former DENR chief Gina Lopez that placed the authority to process and issue environmental clearances under the agency’s central office.
In DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2017-18 issued last July 3, Cimatu “suspended indefinitely” Lopez’s DAO No. 2017-04 that centralized the processing of environmental compliance certificates (ECC) under the Office of the Secretary.
Lopez’s order mandates that a proposed project that is either a potentially environmentally critical project or would be placed in an environmentally critical area has to first secure approval from the DENR chief before the undertaking begins.
The DENR secretary’s issuance of an ECC to a project certifies that based on the representations of the proponent, the proposed project or undertaking will not cause significant negative environmental impact.
The ECC contains specific measures and conditions that the project proponent has to undertake before and during the operation of the project, and in some cases, during the project’s abandonment phase to mitigate identified environmental impacts.
Cimatu’s order allowed the regional offices of the DENR to process ECCs.
“There were lots of questions so I immediately sent memo to all (DENR) regional directors to continue processing but not approve until such time may [there’s already] clear directions on the policy,” Cimatu said on Thursday.
In his order, the DENR chief said he had suspended Lopez’s order “in the interest of service and in order to expedite the issuance of” ECCs “in the regional level consistent with the directive of the President to fast-track issuance of government permits and licenses.”
About 1,000 ECC applications have been pending since Lopez centralized the authority to issue the certificates under the Office of the Secretary, according to the Environmental Management Bureau. Among the ECC applications are for proposed construction projects, gasoline stations, and storage facilities.
Cimatu said the DENR had received many queries and complaints because of the delay in the issuance of ECCs for the said proposed projects.