Comprehensive Environmental Code will equip city government offices

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The ongoing updating of the City’s Environmental Code will equip the different offices of the City Government of Puerto Princesa in enforcing laws and addressing concerns confronting the locality.

The Environmental Code or City Ordinance 396 officially titled, “Code of Conduct for the Conservation, Protection and Restoration of the Sources of Life of the City of Puerto Princesa,” was enacted in 2008.

It is on the process of updating through a series of multi-sectoral and stakeholder’s consultations, workshops, data analysis and other activities to come up with amendments to make it relevant. The enactment of an updated Environmental Code is expected before the end of 2019 or by next year.

Atty. Carlo B. Gomez, City Environment and Natural Resources Officer, said that one of the purposes of the updating is to address the current gaps and to strengthen the mechanism and enforcement of environmental laws.

He explained that a comprehensive code will equip the different offices of the City Government to initiate necessary actions and processes without being dependent to the action of the national government.

“There must be a strong vision in crafting the amendments of our Environmental Code. The City Government should be able to provide independent environmental policies, that is why we need an Envi Code that is comprehensive and encompassing something that can stand on its own, sans policies from other agencies,” he said.

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What is absent in the existing Environmental Code are the specific functions of the different offices in connection with the environmental violations committed by violators.

On the other hand, there are also other functions which the city government cannot act due to the absence of legislation, which they intend to incorporate in the updating of the Environmental Code.

“So that actions can be taken by the City Government and will no longer wait for national agencies, we wanted to adopt all existing laws and provide authority to the different offices of the City (Government). Sa ngayon maraming areas na ang mag-acto ay national office, Why? Because of the absence of local ordinance and local capacity measures,” Atty. Gomez said.

One of the examples is the Building Code which he said, only little authority is given to the City Engineering Office and City Planning and Development Office, which is inconsistent to the intention of the Republic Act 7160 also known as Local Government Code of 1991, which is to devolve functions and further empower the local government units.

“Minsan nagiging irrelevant ang mga local counterparts because of this. What we need is to provide the necessary department with teeth and strength to impose sanctions and penalties. We have encountered a lot of situations. Ang ginagawa natin pino-police lang. There is a need to capacitate the City ENRO to impose penal sanctions for immediate action kasi matagal yung action from the national (agencies),” said Atty. Gomez.

Mary Ann Joylle M. Madriñan, Senior Environmental Management Specialist and head of the Environmental Management Services Division said that simultaneous to the updating of the Environmental Code is the formulation of the Environmental Plan, which is a framework. A well-crafted Environmental Plan and Environmental Code will give a clearer direction in managing the city’s natural resources.

She said that the updating of the Environmental Code is technically assisted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Strenghtening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) project.

The project’s goal is to foster the development of conditions for broad-based, inclusive and resilient economic growth in eight emerging economies AND secondary cities in the country, including Puerto Princesa.

SURGE assist the City Government to plan effectively to improve urban development and planning, promote competitiveness, promote sustainable development, among others.

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