Up until now, the response taken in the Philippines to deal with polluting industries has been to issue temporary closure orders. However, this has contributed to a culture of secrecy by companies afraid of closure and is a strategy that the fragile economy of the Philippines can ill-afford. Now the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) has developed a scheme which has much more “creativity and ingenuity”, according to the EMB’s director Peter Abaya.

Launched at the presidential palace this month, the Philippine Environment Partnership Program (PEPP) is a partnership program between the public and private sector. Traditionally regulatory agencies have had a confrontational relationship with industry, Abaya told ASER, with businesses not revealing to authorities any details of their emissions or their waste disposal measures. In order to encourage a different attitude, the PEPP program offers a range of incentives to companies that are more transparent about their environmental performance. Chief among these is likely to be a grace period in which companies can work towards compliance with regulatory requirements without fear of prosecution. In addition to phased compliance programs, the program will also offer advice and assistance on pollution abatement.

Already the program seems to have struck a chord with industry. Although it has only just been launched, the program has been under development for about 14 months – and 3,000 of about 15,000 companies being targeted by the program have already signed up to it. Breaking the culture of secrecy and gradually bringing companies into compliance is only part of Abaya’s goals for the program. He told ASER that once the EMB is able to get a substantial proportion of companies in compliance with existing standards, it will be in a position to begin tightening the country’s “relatively poor” emission control standards.

The Philippine Environment Partnership Program (PEPP) is a joint program administered by the EMB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and is being supported by organisations including the Department of Trade and Industry, the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Economic Mobilisation Group.

EMB defines ‘non-burn’ waste treatment:

According to Abaya, the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the Clean Air Act (ASER March issue) are now very close to being released for public comment. The Act includes a hotly-debated provision banning the use of incineration to dispose of waste. Abaya, who participated in the discussions on the Act’s ban on incineration, told ASER that in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the IRR would allow for the use of “non-burn” waste treatment technology. He defined this as any technology where either there was no fire in direct contact with waste in the destruction chamber or there was no oxygen in the destruction chamber or the heat source is not fire and does not produce fire. “I am not going to change that position,” he told ASER. Abaya anticipates a public consultation program on the IRR – which he described as a “very practical” document – will commence within the next two months.

Environmental controls inadequate in power privatisation bill:

Abaya is also lobbying hard to have environmental provisions inserted into the privatisation legislation for Napocor, the government owned power utility. Once the sector is privatised power prices will fall and demand will rise, along with emissions, Abaya told ASER. He wants to see the legislation amended to include ‘offset’ provisions for CO2 emissions and measures to regulate SOx and NOx emissions. The lower house rejected this call but Abaya is hoping for a more receptive hearing in Congress. If the amendments are not made to the power bill, then they will have to go into the implementing rules and regulations of the Clean Air Act, he said.

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