By Chito Chavez
Ninety-five of the 178 local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila, Regions III (Central Luzon), and IV-A (Calabarzon) within the Manila Bay Watershed Area or 53 percent of the localities were discovered to be non-compliant to existing environmental laws.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said the findings were based on the 2018 Regional Inter- Agency Committee table assessments and on-site inspections.
The DILG assessed LGUs around Manila Bay as its rehabilitation is now in full gear.
He noted that non-compliant LGUs failed to hit the indicators gauging their compliance to existing environmental laws, with 16 of the localities having the worst problems being prioritized by the DILG.
“Based on our assessment, we still have a lot of work to do, and we intend to start with these 16 LGUs as we go along assisting all of 178.
We will help them, hindi namin sila pababayaan (We will not abandon them),” said Año.
Of the 95 LGUs that failed the assessment, 56 are from Central Luzon; 37 from Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon); and two from the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila.
“Maraming pagkukulang na nagdulot ng dekadang problema sa Manila Bay (Laxity led to decades of deterioration at Manila Bay). But we are not here to point fingers anymore, we, through the directive of the President, are here to bring back the Bay to its former glory and we need all LGUs to do their part,” he noted.
But Año warned stubborn local chief executives of the stiffest possible sanctions should they insist on violating environmental laws.
“We can also file cases against them with the Ombudsman or recommend disciplinary action to the President, if warranted. So we challenge all LGUs to shape up. We need them to fight and win the Battle for Manila Bay,” he said.
The results of the LGU Compliance Assessment were released to the LGUs during the local government executives’ forum on the rehabilitation of Manila Bay held recently.
The assessment aims to assess LGU compliance to existing environmental laws and policies; identify necessary assistance needed by LGUs; and demand accountability from LGUs based on their actions/inactions based on their mandates.
Año added that depending on the assessment, the DILG can extend the provision of capacity development, workshops, coaching, and mentoring, among others to ensure that the LGUs are fully capable of exercising their mandates.
“Kung ang problema ng LGU ay ang creation of drainage master plan para mas maging maayos ang kanilang liquid waste management, we can hold capacity development programs para sa kanila, this assistance, ibibigay ng Kagarawan para sa kanila (If the problem of the LGU is the creation of drainage master plan to improve their liquid waste management, we can hold capacity development programs for them. We will provide them with this assistance. The Department will give this to them,” the DILG chief assured.
The DILG also committed the issuance of relevant directives, inter-agency joint memoranda, consultations, and download of funding, among others.
The DILG chief disclosed that apart from its current efforts to assist the LGUs, the Department also devised a continuing plan to address LGUs’ problem areas in Solid Waste Management; Liquid Waste Management; Informal Settlers Families (ISF); and Biodiversity Management.
He is now looking at establishing the DILG Manila Bay Rehabilitation Task Force, which will be composed of task groups such as: Law Enforcement and Security Task Group; Barangay Clean-up and Enforcement Task Group; Informal Settler Families Relocation Task Group; LGU Supervision and Capacity Development Task Group; and Inspection and Permit Issuance Task Group.
Año also assured the DILG will continue its stringent monitoring of LGU compliance on the environmental laws for the clean-up, rehabilitation, and preservation Manila Bay.
He added the LGUs will be monitored through the LGU Compliance Assessment tool which will gauge their compliance with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the Clean Water Act, the Urban Development and Housing Act, the Water Code, and other related environmental laws.
Año explained that through the LGU Compliance Assessment tool, the DILG will determine which LGUs committed violations under existing environmental laws and which are compliant.
No ECC, no business
Año called on the LGUs to pass ordinances that will ensure that businesses without the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) will not be allowed to operate.
“You have to be consistent na kapag walang ECC, hindi na makakatuloy ang business. And if there are violations, make them pay the fine (if there are no ECC the business will have to cease. And if there are violations make them pay fines),” he said.
He also addressed the rehabilitation’s critics, saying that “detractors would always have an opinion about the administration’s undertakings” and encouraged the LCEs to be focused on the noble cause of rehabilitating the Bay.
“Ang masama ay iyong mga detractors natin ay wala naman ginawa nung sila ang nakaupo. Sana tumulong na lang sila (What is worse is the detractors never did anything when they were in power. I just hope that they just support us),” he ended.