THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has suspended the Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECC) of property developer Century Communities Corp. and miner Austral-Asia Link Mining Corporation.
Environment Secretary Regina Lopez said that the suspension order against Century was in line with the conditions set by its ECC in developing a 58-hectare housing project at the La Mesa Watershed in Quezon City for employees of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
“They failed to secure clearance from the MWSS Council. They also lack of compliance with the requirements for the ground water survey,” Lopez said in a press conference.
Lopez noted the ECC issued to Century in 2015 does not include the construction of high-rise buildings that may destroy the watershed’s environment.
“The agreement was only for housing. There was no discussion at that time on putting up a high-rise building,” she said, adding that Century kept on changing their plans.
Meanwhile, Century said it is preparing to submit an appeal to the DENR on the basis that it has complied with the provisions of its ECC for the Novaliches project.
“The company is of the strong opinion that there is no definitive basis to suspend its ECC for the said project,” Century said in a statement.
“On September 6, a technical conference was held between DENR officers and company representatives to discuss responses to the agency’s Notice of Adverse Findings, which required us to show cause why we should not be fined. There was no mention of the possibility of suspension, nor cancellation,” it added.
Century also said the meeting established that the company complied with the ECC rules and as a result, was neither sanctioned nor fined by the DENR.
“The company is of the strong opinion that suspension is not warranted since there has been no development works commenced on the property to date,” it said.
The subject property is located some two-and-a-half kilometers away from the reservoir. It was awarded through sale by the MWSS to its employees for a housing project. The private rights to develop a housing project on the property were upheld with finality by the Supreme Court in 1975.
Century Communities said it hopes the DENR would fairly and judiciously exercise its authority throughout the course of the process not only for the project but also recognize that the property has been afforded the rights to develop a housing project.
“Projects in Singapore, the United States and the United Kingdom that are built beside water reservoirs have been proven not to contaminate the water with the use of stringent measures,” it said.
“Our company believes that with the right planning and execution, and the proper guidance from the DENR, there is no reason that the same cannot be achieved for the Novaliches development,” it added.
Century said it remains open to discuss with the DENR and various sectors on whatever conditions or additional requirements will be imposed on the project to further safeguard public interest.
But Lopez said: “I am personally for zero development in any watershed.”
The DENR chief also announced the suspension of the ECC of Austral-Asia Link Mining Corp. in Davao Oriental.
“The reason why we are suspending it is because we made a biodiversity assessment in the area. Biodiversity is like gold. You can do many things there. It has been found that the way the company is doing its operation is putting at risk the biodiversity,” Lopez said.
Lopez noted that Austral-Asia’s 5,000-hectare concession area is sandwiched between two protected areas – including a pigmy forest reserve and the nesting site of the endangered Philippine eagle.
The DENR chief added that that the agency will conduct an intense audit of some 800 ECCs issued to various companies and not just mining firms.
“We will look into it, categorize (them), and put more emphasis on ones that have public impact. This is different from a regular audit because we are looking at things that have not been looked up,” she added.