YES, such needs stricter enforcement by local government units (LGUs) without under-the-table “areglo” to the disadvantage of public interest. And this should have corresponding tight and right supervision of DILG.
This point transpired among civil society organizations (CSOs) and circles of well-meaning engineers who claimed that some national laws, executive orders and memorandum circulars are not being taken seriously by a number of LGUs especially where Local Chief Executives (LCEs) share cards with the local big businesses.
Among those mentioned often violated and neglected is the RA 9275 or Clean Water Act of 2004. The state declared a policy to pursue economic growth in a manner consistent with the protection, preservation and revival of the quality of the country’s fresh, brackish and marine waters. It also strongly reiterated that discharge of untreated wastewater to any waterbody is prohibited and thus requires all to treat wastewater through the installation of wastewater treatment facility.
On Clean Water Act, the DENR MC No.2018-07, issued July 4, 2018 was a hallmark towards the realization of RA 9275 as it called hotels, resorts and similar establishments to establish their own Sewage Treatment Plan (STP), either individually or clustered.
The untreated waste water, solid waste, liquid waste, gaseous-odorous waste, released by these companies on air, water, land, freshwater bodies, coastal, forest, grasslands, urban and agricultural, are damaging our already destroyed environment. Wastewater is full of contaminants including bacteria, chemicals and other toxins. They destroy soil and water nutrients, and in the process destroy our ecosystem. These are issues that pose a wider concern for sustainable environmental management.
Per EMB-DENR report in 2015, only 10% of wastewater is treated while 58% of the groundwater is contaminated. Only 5% of the total population is connected to a sewage network; the vast majority uses simple flush toilets connected to septic tanks, or have none.
Out of 127 freshwater bodies sampled, 47% were found to have good water quality. However, 40% of those sampled were found to have only fair water quality, while 13% showed poor water quality. Waterborne diseases remain a severe public health concern in the country. About 4,200 people die each year due to contaminated drinking water.
The law likewise calls on the Local Government Units (LGUs) to share in the responsibility in the management and improvement of water quality within their territorial jurisdictions. In fact, LGUs are the key players in the Water Quality Management Areas (WQMA) designated by DENR in accordance with Sec.5 of the RA 9275 and its IRR.
Reports from LGUs of widespread violation and neglect of Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) in Boracay, and similar other reports nationwide, involving resorts, hotels, food processing plants, factories, beverage companies, commercial establishments, among others, prompted DILG Secretary Ano to issue Memorandum Circular (MC) 2019-62 of April 22, 2019 which set policy and guidelines on sewage treatment and sewage management systems.
Sec Ano has instructed LGUs not to renew or issue business permits to companies without STP or neglecting sewage management systems, including warning to suspend local officials who do the opposite.
This writer has received reports that violations and neglect of this compliance are widespread and reached dangerous proportions in a number of cities and class A and B municipalities outside of NCR, including region 6.
Another example is the RA 10888 or Balanced Housing Program and Amendments Act, requiring developers to implement and expand socialized housing program for the poor and lowed income sectors.
Under the law, developers putting up subdivisions must comply 15% of its total project cost for socialized housing in the same city or town where they are implementing the project, and 5% for the same for putting up condominium. Those who fail to comply will not be given construction permit by the concerned LGU.
There are still so many laws, EOs and MCs that have not been executed which otherwise would have benefited our people.
The big question now is why do these companies with gross violations and neglect have continued to operate, or been allowed to operate? Obviously, hocus pocus is being done in the LGUs, and between LGUs and these companies, which have deprived the urban and rural poor of the services they could have availed had there been no officials engaged in notoriously despicable services.
I challenged the CSOs to bond together and take active part with right strategies in correcting this through third party monitoring and evaluation, and reporting the same to proper authorities with right people.
I challenged likewise the DILG to come up with biting approaches to enforce these laws without fear and favor among the LGUs as the main player in realizing national policies and programs on the ground level.