THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources has suspended indefinitely implementation of an administrative order issued by former Secretary Gina Lopez, which gave her the power to approve environmental compliance certificates of environmentally critical projects.
In a July 3 administrative order, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu suspended Lopez’s Feb. 15 directive “in the interest of service to expedite the issuance of the [ECC] in the regional level consistent with the directive of the President to fast-track issuance of government permits and licenses.”
He said his directive “can also be viewed as our contribution to making the country more investor-friendly.”
The order was effective immediately.
Cimatu ordered DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau “to undertake further review of the environmental impact assessment procedures and policies and to recommend to the Secretary the possible amendment or revision thereto.”
ECPs are development projects with high potential for significant negative environmental impact, such as heavy and resource-extractive industries, like mining and infrastructure projects.
Environmentally critical areas include national parks and sanctuaries, tourist spots, habitats of threatened wildlife species, tribal community areas, prime agricultural lands, and water bodies and other coastal and marine ecosystems.
In February, Lopez issued DENR Administrative Order 2017-04 giving her the sole authority to issue ECCs for ECPs and non-ECPs within ECAs.
Upon the recommendation of the EMB director and the department’s undersecretary for legal affairs, Lopez would have to decide whether to grant an ECC or not to ECPs.
Following the suspension of the administrative order, the approving authority for ECPs must come from the secretary, while the approving authority for non-ECPs within ECAs was tasked to the EMB director and/or the EMB regional directors.