The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill requiring environmental insurance coverage for environmentally-critical projects (ECP) in order to protect the country’s ecology and natural resources.
With 247 voting in the affirmative and zero in the negative, the Lower Chamber approved House Bill 0144 authored by Deputy Speaker and 1SAGIP Partylist Rep. Rodante D.Marcoleta.
To be known as the Mandatory Environmental Insurance Coverage Act, HB 0144 was transmitted to the Senate following its passage on Monday, June 1.
Marcoleta underscored the need to immediately enact a law mandating environmental insurance for ECPs as he recalled numerous incidences of destruction of natural resources, agricultural and sea resources resulting from man-made environmental destruction.
“Despite existing laws that protect the environment, there are still lapses in implementing the lawful right of people to a healthy and balanced ecology,” he said.
The bill defines an ECP as a project that has high potential for significant negative environmental impact.
Among these are resource extractive industries and infrastructure projects.
Under the bill, owners and operators of ECPs are required to secure a Mandatory Environmental Insurance Coverage to compensate for damages to health and property, environmental rehabilitation, remediation and clean up costs resulting from impairment or damage to resources triggered by the projects.
The insurance coverage will be a mandatory requirement before construction or commercial operations can start.
An insurance company contracted for the coverage are required to pay all claims to a special escrow account in government depository banks, which shall in turn disburse the corresponding payment to beneficiaries.
Penalties for violation of the provisions of the measure include a fine ranging from P500,000 to P2 million or imprisonment of six to 12 years to be imposed on the owner or operator of the ECP.
In pushing for the swift passage of the measure, Marcoleta recalled the 1996 Marcopper mining tragedy in Marinduque that destroyed several hectares of farmlands and led to the biological death of the Boac and Makalupnit rivers.
He said the 2005 and 2007 massive fish kills in Rapu-rapu Albay were also caused by cyanide spills from mining operations of Lafayette , Philippines Inc.
“Man-made environmental damages originating from owners or operators will be unmitigated – unless and until they are held responsible for their activities that they pose risks or destruction on the environment,” Marcoleta explained.