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The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources has cancelled the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of property developer Century Communities Corp. (CCC), which is seeking to put up a 58-hectare housing project at the La Mesa Watershed. In a briefing on Thursday, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez cited a scientific recommendation against the conversion of the area into a housing project for the employees of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez —NIÑO JESUS ORBETA The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources has cancelled the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of property developer Century Communities Corp. (CCC), which is seeking to put up a 58-hectare housing project at the La Mesa Watershed. In a briefing on Thursday, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez cited a scientific recommendation against the conversion of the area into a housing project for the employees of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). “It is not advisable to put up any kind of development inside the La Mesa Watershed,” Lopez said. “As a matter of principle, that’s the watershed of 12 million people and I cannot see the possibility that a business interest is more important than the water our people drink.” Worried about water table “You must not have housing inside a watershed because it will affect the water table,” she stressed. When the DENR chief suspended the ECC of Century Communities in October, she noted the document issued in 2015 did not provide for the developer to construct high-rise buildings. The project secured an ECC during the tenure of then Environment Secretary Ramon Paje under the Aquino administration. The housing project site is within a critical area of the watershed in Novaliches, Quezon City. Lopez, who had opposed the project as an environmentalist before being appointed to the DENR, said the campaign was able to gather five million signatures. Century Communities is a subsidiary of the listed Century Properties Group Inc., whose founder, Jose E.B. Antonio, was recently designated by President Duterte as special envoy to the United States. Company response Lopez maintained: “I said DENR is committed to social justice and the filter in which all decisions are made is based on the common good. If you’re going to ask me to make decisions based on political scenarios, I’m not going to do that.” Reached for comment, CCC said it would wait for the DENR order before releasing a full statement. But the company recalled that the first announcement that the ECC would be suspended was made in October in a press conference held by Lopez. “Since then and to this day, we have not received an order regarding the supposed suspension,” it said. A technical conference between CCC and DENR was held last September, but the DENR “neither sanctioned nor fined” the company, “which validated CCC’s compliance.” “A few weeks later in October, the suspension was announced. No papers came and then the December press conference took place this afternoon. As such, we would like to wait for the formal paper first before issuing any further comments,” the firm added.

An ECC is a document issued by the DENR certifying that a possibly high-impact project would not cause significant negative environmental impact. According to the Invest Philippines website, an ECC contains specific measures and conditions that a project proponent has to undertake before and during operations. Conditions not met DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna disclosed that some of the conditions under the ECC for the La Mesa housing project were not fulfilled, as of the department’s latest communications with Century Communities. She said a required hydrological study was not carried out because the DENR team was not allowed inside, which meant that this condition “might not be fulfilled at all.” In any case, Luna said, the DENR would not be able to meet its end of the ECC anyway. The agency would not be able to issue a tree-cutting permit because of Proclamation No. 1336, which in 2007 established a reservation in the watershed, she added. “Hence, there is a condition rendering the ECC ineffective. So why keep the ECC alive when they could not fulfill the condition? It is up to us and we are constrained not to give the tree-cutting permit anyway,” she said. Luna maintained that the DENR’s move to cancel the ECC was legal. “It can be cancelled, it can be suspended, it can be changed because it is only a planning tool.” Since construction of the project has not yet started, Luna noted that the DENR is “actually lessening (the developer’s) exposure if we already (say) that we cannot grant a tree-cutting permit.” —WITH DORIS DUMLAO/rga source:newsinfo.inquirer.net

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