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DENR Halts ECC Processing for Projects in Philippine Protected Areas

DIGOS CITY, DAVAO DEL SUR - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has announced a suspension of all Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) applications for developments within the nation's protected areas, a move aimed at safeguarding biodiversity and ensuring sustainable development practices.

According to Philippines News Agency, who made the announcement following a visit to Mount Apo Natural Park, the suspension is effective immediately, pending a thorough review and overhaul of the application process by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). "All future ECC applications for protected areas will now need to be elevated to the central office for scrutiny," Yulo-Loyzaga stated, emphasizing the need for heightened vigilance in these ecologically sensitive zones.

The directive also mandates that no ECCs will be processed without explicit consent from the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), ensuring that any developmental activity within protected locales adheres strictly to environmental standards. The decision comes in the wake of findings that two resorts operating within Mount Apo Natural Park lacked complete documentation and proper permits.

While no closure orders have been issued for the implicated establishments, the DENR's actions signify a robust response to potential environmental compliance violations within protected areas. The comprehensive memorandum, dated March 26, issued to regional DENR offices and relevant bureau directors, outlines procedures for the meticulous review of ECC applications and existing structures within these regions.

Regional offices are now tasked with cataloging and scrutinizing all developments in protected areas to ascertain their environmental compliance. Additionally, any environmentally critical project within these zones must receive direct clearance from the DENR Secretary or an authorized representative, reinforcing the department's commitment to environmental stewardship.

This policy aligns with the provisions of Republic Act 11038, or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area System (ENIPAS) Act, which underscores the imperative to preserve the natural integrity and diversity of the Philippines' protected landscapes. The enactment of this suspension reflects the government's proactive stance on environmental conservation amid growing concerns over the impacts of unchecked development in critical habitats.