by Joe Mancera
For so many times in the past issues of PeerScope and GreenEarth, we had informed all stakeholders about the laws and other legal issuances that could be violated if our calls were not listened to. We made great emphasis about NIPAS Law or National Integrated Protected Areas System which is so comprehensive in the conservation, protection and management of the marine and coastal resources; there is also the Executive Order 544 mandating the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) which is more specific about the roles of the local government units (LGUs) as frontliners in the enhancement of the provisions of Executive Order 240 regarding the FARMCs or the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils where it is mandated that fishermen and fisherfolk associations be organized in every barangay, to give greater voice in the decision-making as regards marine and coastal food resources. In fact, the FARMCs have the power to issue or deny permits to project proponents of government projects that would cause adverse consequences to the marine ecological balance and biodiversity.
The NIPAS Law, the ICM and FARMCs show in detail the general mandates of the Philippine Constitution, the Philippine Fisheries Code or RA8550 and its revised version. All these are geared to protect the marine ecosystem and biodiversity, especially those which provide food resources to the local population who are dependent on these areas for daily sustenance and income for their families.
After patient waiting with anxiety, we have at last received the NOTICE OF VIOLATION and CEASE AND DESIST ORDER (CDO) from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR in Quezon City. It was received by Art Siga on Friday, November 26 at 8:26 a.m. News about the notice elated the fishermen and fisherfolk of barangays Combado and Lib-og who feared about the loss of their source of food and income which is the coastal area, the coral reefs, the mangroves, and the other portions of the marine ecosystem which would be erased with the two planned causeways and the ultimate 100 hectares of reclamation.
The notice of violation and the cease and desist order were based on the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System which requires the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for reclamation and other projects which might have adverse impact on the natural environment. It must be noted here that an ECC needs more than a year to accomplish if it is done in accord with the lawful guidelines, not just for the sake of compliance or in favor of the wishes of project proponents.
As gleaned from the notice of violation and CDO, the act constituting the violation was the “Implementing reclamation activities in brgy. Combado, Maasin City, Southern Leyte without acquiring the necessary Environmental Compliance Certificate.”
EMB Memorandum Circular No. 2014-005 says that regardless of the area to be reclaimed or restored, the proponent needs to secure an ECC prior to project implementation.
It is now quite clear here that there had been a violation in the implementation of Combado’s reclamation disguised in the technical term “Causeway.” In fact, the EMB estimated that two (2) hectares had already been reclaimed in barangay Combado. Had there been no CDO from EMB, the second causeway in Lib-og would have been readily implemented.
Let it be known also that the Combado and Lib-og causeways have not undergone public consultation involving all stakeholders, notably the fishermen and fisherfolk in the two barangays. As a consequence, hundreds of residents there and in other barangays made a signature campaign expressing their vehement objection. Note also that no FARMC permit was issued for the two projects; the BFAR and other agencies concerned were not consulted, as mandated by the ICM and the FARMC executive orders. When illegal from the start, projects implemented should be illegal throughout their full implementation.