February 8, 2017
POE: ENVIRONMENT MUST NOT BE SACRIFICED IN E-POWERS
Environmental protection must remain a top priority in the implementation of projects in the traffic-related emergency powers, Sen. Grace Poe has assured.
During the opening of the plenary debates on Senate Bill No. 1284 or the Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act, Poe said that while the process for securing permits is streamlined and certain licenses are being waived including the grant of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), she suggested that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) be part of an advisory council that will make recommendations to the Traffic Crisis Manager.
"We will definitely not sacrifice the environment and natural resources for this because if we do so, then we are just creating one problem after attempting to solve one," said Poe, the measure's sponsor, in reply to queries from Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
"What's sad even in the right-of-way issues that we have or even in utilizing a particular land or a particular building, we will notice that it is one government agency against another government agency, when in fact the reason why we are doing this is we are all in this together in a crisis. So I think that the least of our worries should be our own agencies throwing hurdles in front of us, rendering this Emergency Crisis Act inutile. We will streamline this and if they need to have a representative in the board or in the advisory council then maybe that's one area that we need to put as safeguard," Poe added.
Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, however, hopes that while environmental protection is very critical, it should not hold hostage the key projects to be implemented under the emergency powers since the duration of the special powers to be granted to the Executive will be less than three years.
According to Poe, "experience tells us" that the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate usually takes six to seven months, "so we really need to expedite the process."
Under Section 16 of the emergency powers bill, provisions of the Local Government Code on the issuance of building permits and requiring prior consultation, the National Building Code requiring building permits before any work is started, Presidential Decree No. 1586 and its implementing rules and regulations, and the Labor Code requiring clearances for foreign employment are temporarily suspended to expedite the process and effectively roll out transportation projects.
The grant of an ECC-a document issued by the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) indicating that the proposed project will not cause significant negative environmental impact-is mandated under PD 1586 issued in 1978 but which the emergency act could suspend for a short duration, while the traffic crisis is being addressed.
Currently, contractors are required to secure five permits from different government agencies before it can proceed with the construction of an infrastructure project. The required licenses are local government permit from the local government unit concerned; approved traffic rerouting scheme from the Metro Manila Development Authority; ECC from the DENR; excavation permit from the DPWH; and tree-cutting permit from the DENR.
The measure authorizes President Rodrigo Duterte, through his appointed Traffic Crisis Manager, to use alternative methods of procurement under existing laws to speed up the implementation of key transportation projects.
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