Go bats for insurance coverage for environmentally critical projects

Published August 26, 2021, 12:51 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has filed Senate Bill (SB) 2358 which seeks to establish a national framework for the mandatory environmental insurance coverage of environmentally critical projects.

Go, chairman of the Senate Health committee, bemoaned the fact that, throughout time, the state’s duty to care for the environment had been ignored, particularly in the wake of modern industrialization’s breakneck speed.

“This has led to almost irreparable damage to the environment, seriously jeopardizing future generations. The Philippines is no exception to this high cost,” he said.

Citing the country’s mandate to “protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature”, Go said the bill would guarantee sufficient funding coverage for the needed restoration and compensation for damages on the environment caused by owners and operators of environmentally-critical projects.

“It is the duty of the State to uphold the quality of life of its people through the protection of the environment they live in,” said Go.

The bill establishes the national framework for Mandatory Environmental Insurance Coverage (MEIC). All owners and operators of environmentally critical projects (ECPs) will be required to secure MEIC. This is to compensate for the adverse environmental consequence arising from their operations.

ECPs include heavy industries, major manufacturing industries, major resource-extractive industries, major infrastructure projects, and other similar projects that could pose serious risks to people and the environment.

Owners and operators of ECPs will not be allowed to commence construction or commercial operation without initially obtaining the MEIC required by the measure.

Furthermore, the bill mandates the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to establish and chair an Inter-Agency Committee, with the Commissioner of the Insurance Commission and representatives of the insurance industry, the mining industry, and other stakeholders that the DENR may deem fit, as members.

The IATC will identify the perils or possible negative environmental impacts, activities, processes or undertakings; conduct risk assessment to determine the appropriate insurance coverage for different ECPs and activities; formulate guidelines for the identification of primary impact areas and prescription of rehabilitation or remediation environmental damages; among others.

The beneficiaries of the MEIC include affected communities, stakeholders, and local government units (LGUs) within the primary impact areas of the projects.

Also included as beneficiaries are government departments, bureaus, and agencies which are tasked under the law to undertake the rehabilitation, cleanup, and monitoring of sites affected by the pollution or insurable event, for which no responsible private or public entity is specified.

In addition to ensuring that projects in the country are environmentally-friendly as far as practicable, Go emphasized the need to ensure that the environment has the means to recover if these projects inevitably damage it.

“While we cannot stop the advancement of industrialization, we cannot sacrifice our environment at the altar of modernization,” he added.

On the same day, Go also filed SB 2359 which provides competitive remuneration and compensation to social workers as a recognition for their work to help the poor and needy in securing government services.