The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is reevaluating the Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) obtained by two mining companies and a housing project located in a watershed.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Thursday claimed the ECCs of coal miner Semirara Mining Corp., Tampakan gold and copper project, and a planned housing project by Century Communities Corp. were issued before the environmental requirements were fully met by the companies.
She is giving the three companies seven days to explain why their ECCs must not be cancelled with a show cause order.
An ECC is a document issued by the DENR secretary or the regional executive director certifying that a proposed project or undertaking will not cause a significant negative impact on the environment.
The proponent must have complied with all the requirements of an Environmental Impact System, and is committed to implement its approved Environmental Management Plan in the Environmental Impact Statement or mitigation measures in an Initial Environmental Examination.
"We need to reevaluate how the ECCs were given, because in the past an ECC is given and then there are a lot of conditions made," Lopez said.
"The decision would be out by third week of the month," she said.
Lopez emphasized disdain of the procedure and how the ECCs were issued, because the conditions were given after the certificates were issued.
"I'm convinced that is not the correct process, I think you should not give an ECC until all the conditions are met," she said.
For whatever reason the government has been giving out an ECC "... and then put all these conditions which are going to be difficult to meet anyway. Lopez noted. "But in the meantime the company has already invested money.
"The conditions to be given—must be done—before an ECC is given, not after," she emphasized.
The Cabinet official plans to reverse the process of issuing ECCs. In the meantime, she intends to heed the current system provided by law.
Semirara Mining, the largest coal producer in the Philippines, has been issued an ECC on April 29, 2016 for its Molave coal expansion project.
The DENR has recorded various complaints against Semirara Mining:
- Black silt from coal washing plant
- Collapse of Panian Pit's west wall due to a landslide on February 14, 2013
- Incident at northern edge of Panian Coal Mine, resulting in the death of several workers in July 2015
"The poverty rate in a town near Semirara mining is 47 percent. The air quality is uncomfortable," the DENR chief emphasized.
Jorge Consunji, director at Semirara Mining, said he will comment once he got information on the matter.
The Tampakan Project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. secured an ECC in 2013, but the project has been on hold since 2010 as the provincial government of South Cotabato banned open-pit mining.
The DENR noted that Sagittarius Mines has failed to secure the following:
- Proof of compliance to permits and clearances required by government agencies
- Resolved pending issues with Department of Agriculture and Department of Agrarian Reform
- No favorable endorsement from the government of Sultan Kudarat
"I'm reviewing why we gave ... [the ECC] at all. Tampakan is a 700-football fields, open-pit mine on top of agricultural lands ... You cannot have mining in the food basket of Mindanao," Lopez said.
The Tampakan mine is estimated to contain 15 million tons of copper and 17.6 million ounces of gold.
On the other hand, Century Communities proposed a 58-hectare housing project for retired workers of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System , but the site is within a critical area of the La Mesa Watershed in Quezon City
In a statement through parent Century Properties Group, Century Communities clarified that it has not commenced any development despite securing an ECC in July last year. — VDS, GMA News