22 September 2011

SBMA to implement stricter measures on environmentally sensitive projects

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will be implementing stricter measures and standards to further safeguard the natural environment of the Subic Bay Freeport from pollution.

SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said that the action aims to ensure that all projects, which are going to be put up or located inside the free port zone, particularly environmentally sensitive projects (ESPs), are acceptable to various stakeholders.

ESPs are projects that are determined to emit pollutants, which may have a potential impact on the natural resources, and the health of the people living or working in the area.

These pollutants include emissions, effluents, sound or visual from the proposed project that may deteriorate the health of the people, the forests and the animals living there, the bay waters, creeks, ground water and air, among others.

Garcia noted that the SBMA recognizes that the Freeport’s natural state far exceeds the quality of the national average, and therefore the agency may issue stricter environmental standards to satisfy the interests of the stakeholders.

The law that created the Freeport and the SBMA mandates the latter to protect, maintain, and develop the virgin forests into a national park by implementing the rules and regulation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The issuance of stricter standards, through the implementation of a policy on ESPs, will help the SBMA in realizing its mandates of protecting and preserving the environment.

“Through a board resolution, the SBMA Board of Directors will declare whether or not the project is environmentally sensitive, or is in compliance with the parameters as determined to be within the acceptable levels of emissions,” Garcia said.

Under this system, if the proposed project is considered an ESP, the SBMA Ecology Center will independently verify all of the project pollutants, the natural resource impacts, and extent of the proponent’s mitigating measures. All data gathered will be presented to the SBMA Board.

Stakeholder groups, consisting of representatives or officers of housing areas, Freeport workers’ associations, and the indigenous people’s tribal council will be invited to public consultations on ESPs where inputs about the results of the verification process will be presented.

Based on the evaluation “of the totality of acceptability ratings from the various stakeholders of the Freeport,” the SBMA Board shall declare whether or not the project is socially acceptable.

In any case where the project is declared not socially acceptable, the proponents will be advised to redesign the project or its mitigating measures to meet a level acceptable to stakeholders. Meanwhile, its permit to operate will be withheld.

“This way, the stakeholders are given a sense of participation in truly preserving the unique environmental feature of the Freeport, which is one of the major attractions of Subic’s tourism industry,” Garcia said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)