Simplifying the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Procedures in the Philippines

Date posted: 
Dec 12 2009

The practice is an on-going and continuous process to stream line and simplify the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures.

Responsible Party: 
Enforcement Agency
I. Objectives or Impact: 

The practice is an on-going and continuous process to stream line and simplify the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures. Sector/subsector: The practice covers environmentally critical projects as well as non-environmentally critical projects located in environmentally critical areas.

II. Description of the Good Practice (Outputs): 

The EIA is primarily a planning tool. On the other hand, the laws on water, air, solid wastes, toxic and hazardous wastes management are regulatory tools. Aside from the environmental laws, a number of environmental concerns have been traditionally and continues to be effectively addressed by a number of government departments other than the environmental management organizations. Environmental issues are crosscutting, covering various disciplines. The main purpose of the EIA process is to identify the environmental issues and highlight those issues for consideration and incorporation by the decision makers vested with legal authority and technical skills. Other departments such as the land use planning, water resources management, forestry, fisheries, and geosciences share on the task of supervising and addressing environment concerns. These agencies can utilize various tools in their respective expertise and disciplines to do so (e.g. social sciences, engineering). However, instead of the EIA being done as early as possible in the project cycle, the EIA is evaluated and makes room for the previous approvals and decisions of the other departments. As a result the EIA has become useless and in a number of instances. Worse, it often times serves as mere rubber stamp for environmentally destructive projects by confirming the decisions made by other agencies without proper consideration of the environmental issues. In the later case, the EIA process contributes to environmental degradation rather than acting as aid for mitigation. For example, a project may have serious environmental concern. For example, land use a reclassification should not have been granted by the land-use planning agency. However, it is often the case that reclassification comes prior to the EIA evaluation. In this particular case, the EIA merely concurs with earlier decisions made by allied agencies. The EIA agency is then placed in an indecisive position. At the same time, the EIA process is blamed for delayed implementation of important projects designed to address environmental problems such as the sitting of sanitary landfill, construction of sewage treatment plants. This practice realigned the EIA process in its appropriate function in the project cycle, strengthened its role in the decision making process by dictating and highlighting the environmental concerns that other decision makers have to consider rather than the other way around. At the same time, it improves the monitoring and enforcement of the environmental concerns especially those aspects where the burden and responsibility have been placed in other governmental agencies.

III. Outcomes or Results: 

The other agencies take the responsibility of incorporating the findings of the EIA and in the process are made answerable to the public if they disregard the recommendations.

IV. Essential Elements for Success: 

Policy Framework: Enabling Policy, Regulation, Inter-agency/Multiparty Agreements

In the case of the Philippines, the EIA authority is vested on the President of the Republic. The President issued Administrative Order 42 which  clarifies and instructs that the EIA is carried out as early as possible in the project cycle. Similarly, the EIA procedures and guideline were revised to reflect the intent of AO 42. Instead of the EIA requiring prior permits and clearances, the findings of the EIA process highlights and in some instances dictates to the other agencies the important environmental concerns that they have to consider in decision-making.

Human Resources and Skills

There were no additional human resources required. However, a number of seminars and training were carried out to reverse the old practices that made the EIA process irrelevant.

Material and Resources

A number of training materials, guidebooks and information materials were made and distributed to the project proponents.

Institutional Support

The project was carried out with the support of the Asian Development Bank.

V. Further Information: 

References and Publications: AO 42 Revised EIA Guidelines