MANILA — More than half of local government units surrounding Manila Bay have failed to comply with environmental laws, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Thursday.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said a total of 95 LGUs or 53 percent of the total 178 LGUs, failed to hit the indicators gauging their compliance to existing environmental laws.
The number consists of 56 LGUs from Central Luzon, 37 from Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), and two from the National Capital Region.
The DILG identified these LGUs based on the 2018 Regional Inter-Agency Committee table assessments and on-site inspections.
“There were decades worth of shortcomings that led to the problems of 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,” Año said in a statement.
He said that 16 of these LGUS were described as having the “worst problems”, noting that they will be given priority by the DILG in providing assistance.
“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 leave them behind),” said Año.
He said that the DILG can extend help to these LGUs by providing capacity development, workshops, coaching and mentoring and the like, in creating programs in line with environmental laws.
Meanwhile, Año also warned LGUs that will not cooperate with them in rehabilitating Manila Bay.
“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.
Año said the department will continue monitoring LGUs to ensure that they are complying with environmental laws for the rehabilitation and preservation of Manila Bay,
The results of the LGU Compliance Assessment were released to the LGUs during a recent local government executives’ forum on the rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
The assessment aims to assess LGU compliance with 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 said 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.
Apart from its current efforts to assist the LGUs, the DILG also devised a continuing plan to address LGU problem areas in Solid Waste Management; Liquid Waste Management; Informal Settlers Families (ISF); and Biodiversity Management.
The DILG chief is also 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 encouraged 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 (if there is no) ECC, hindi na makakatuloy ang business (you have to suspend business operations). And if there are violations, make them pay the fine,” 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.
The rehabilitation of Manila Bay started this January after President Rodrigo Duterte called for its cleanup. (PNA) By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan