Construction, businesses held up by Lopez order to centralize ECC issuance
ILOILO CITY — Various construction projects have been delayed due to an order issued by Gina Lopez when she was still environment secretary requiring all environmental compliance certificates (ECC) to be submitted to her office for approval.
The projects include large buildings, restaurants, gasoline stations and even government housing projects for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” according to officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in a meeting here with newly appointed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. (President Duterte appointed Cimatu after the Commission on Appointments rejected the appointment of Gina Lopez at the DENR.)
An ECC is a document issued by the DENR certifying that a proposed project or undertaking will not pose environmental hazards or damage and that its proponents are capable of implementing measures to protect the environment.
Lopez had issued a memorandum requiring all applications for ECCs to be submitted to the office of the undersecretary for legal affairs and then to her office for approval, Ariel Gloria, Western Visayas director of the Environmental Management Bureau, said.
“Until now all applications from Region 6 are pending. We have received many queries especially from big industries why the ECCs have been withheld,” Gloria said in the meeting.
Lopez’s order amended the administrative order issued by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as president, delegating the approval of ECCs to regional executive directors and the director of the EMB central office.
Around 5,000 ECC applications nationwide are being processed for approval or rejection daily, according to Jonas Leones, DENR undersecretary for policy, planning and international affairs.
Under existing regulations, complete applications for the issuance of ECCs have to be acted on by the DENR within 20 to 30 days or it will automatically be considered approved.
Jim Sampula, DENR Western Visayas executive director, said Lopez issued the memorandum before she vacated her post “for reasons I still don’t know.”
“(ECC applications) have piled up at the central office. Imagine, you need to go Manila to get an ECC for a small business?” Sampulna told reporters.
He said the backlog has delayed housing projects of the government for “Yolanda” survivors.
The DENR regional office has continued to implement this directive on ECCs but has asked Cimatu to look into its propriety and necessity, Sampulna said.
Cimatu said a DENR study group would look into these concerns, including the status of officials and employees under Lopez. SFM/rga
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