Press Release
January 23, 2012

Legarda Seeks Stronger Protection of Communities
from Environmental Disasters

Senator Loren Legarda has urged the Senate to look into the necessity of instituting a system of Mandatory Environmental Insurance Coverage (MEIC) in light of the environmental damages generated by commercial activities and worsened by the impact of climate change.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said that such system could be crucial in protecting communities from possible environmental disasters and prevent incidences such as the Marcopper mining tragedy in Marinduque and massive fish kills in Rapu-Rapu, Albay

The Senator explained that the current Environmental Impact Statement System (EISS) and the Environmental Guarantee Fund might not be enough to compensate and rehabilitate communities that may be affected by public and private projects.

The EISS is a system that must be established for every project or undertaking, whether by the government or private sector, that will significantly affect the quality of the environment; while the Environmental Guarantee Fund will be utilized for the immediate rehabilitation of areas affected by damages to the environment as a direct consequence of the project.

"The lack of resolution in the country's large-scale environmental disasters continues to cause undue suffering to our people and raises question on the adequacy of the Environmental Guarantee Fund in sufficiently funding the compensation, clean-up and rehabilitation requirements of affected areas and communities," Legarda said.

"This was clearly manifested by the 1996 Marcopper mining tragedy in Marinduque where a discharge of 160,000 tonnes of mine tailings led to the biological death of the Boac and Makulapnit rivers--consequently destroying 823 hectares of farmland and displacing 20,000 families," she pointed out.

Legarda said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has already issues an administrative order requiring the implementation of a Mandatory Environmental Insurance Coverage (MEIC) for all ongoing activities/projects and applications for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and/or Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC). However, it was suspended pending public consultations among stakeholders.

"Even as these public consultations have yet to make clear changes in the DENR's policy on ensuring adequate compensation for communities affected by human-induced environmental disasters, environmental disputes continue to occur with no effective resolution in sight," she stressed.

"The reality of climate change threatens to magnify the losses which will be felt by these communities in the face of man-made environmental damages, thus highlighting the need that they be adequately compensated and rehabilitated after the occurrence of these disasters," she added.

It is in this light that Legarda filed Senate Resolution 682, which urges the Senate to look into the necessity of instituting a system of MEIC.

"We need to protect our communities from possible environmental disasters. We have to ensure that Filipinos are freed from the trap of disasters and poverty by assuring that disaster-afflicted communities can quickly recover from their losses and break out from the vulnerability cycle," Legarda concluded.

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