By Anthony de Leon, Norman Bordadora
INQ7.net, Inquirer News Service
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT--The Department Of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) have agreed to resolve a long-standing conflict on who should be issuing environmental clearances at the special economic zone.
In a memorandum of understanding signed by Environment Secretary Michael Defensor and SBMA chief executive officer Alfredo Antonio, the DENR's Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) will take the lead role in the processing and approval of environmental compliance certificates (ECC) for new firms in the Freeport.
Prior to this, all ECC's were released by the ecology department of the SBMA.
"As Subic prospers, we want the locators to feel that we are efficient and that we are true to our thrust of maintaining the balance of the environment," said Defensor.
Defensor said the DENR would also seek a review and validation for ECC's previously released by the SBMA.
The new setup would leave the SBMA with the task of monitoring compliance among the Freeport's investors, he added.
"This is the start of a fruitful cooperation. Both the SBMA and the DENR agree that today's signing is a concrete manifestation of a common concern, and that is to maintain the balance of the Freeport's environment side," Antonio said.
The signing of the MOU came on the heels of a decision promulgated recently by the Court of Appeals upholding the DENR's authority to exercise its regulatory powers within the Subic Freeport.
Earlier, the DENR, through the EMB in central Luzon, lifted a cease-and-desist order it had issued against Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium that operates the Ocean Adventure park.
Ocean Adventure was served the order on August 3 after it failed to secure an ECC from the DENR although it had one issued by the SBMA.
The order was issued after the Court of Appeals upheld the jurisdictional authority of the DENR to issue ECCs to establishments inside the Subic freeport.
The EMB regional office lifted the order because Ocean Adventure had submitted the environmental impact assessment documents it had also submitted to the SBMA Ecology Center.
The park came under fire from environmental activists after several marine mammals used in its shows died.