COA tells Bantayan to secure ECC, water permits for desalination plant
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the P21-million desalination plant being constructed in Bantayan town, northern Cebu.
The state auditing body instructed the local government of Bantayan to secure Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and the National Water Resource Board (NWRB) Permit for its Desalination Plant in Barangay Luyongbaybay.
In its 2021 annual audit report for Bantayan, COA said the municipal government failed to provide the ECC and NWRB permit during the audit inquiry.
“The ECC and the NWRB permits, as required in PD (Presidential Decree) 1586 and PD 1067, respectively, were lacking during audit. These permits were not attached to the disbursement vouchers for the payment,” portions of the report stated.
A copy of the 127-page audit report can be accessed on the commission’s official website.
COA pointed out that without the necessary documents, environmental and regulatory compliance for the construction of the desalination plant remains uncertain.
“Thus, exposing the Municipality, in case the ECC and NWRBP permits may be disapproved, to legal uncertainties since the project was already more than halfway through its completion,” they added.
Last August 14, 2021, the local government unit (LGU) of Bantayan began constructing its desalination plant in Barangay Luyongbaybay.
The facility aims to provide a stable, potable water supply to remote areas in the locality, particularly barangay islets.
The project costs approximately P21.6 million. Further information from COA showed that the progress of civil works is already at 54.44 percent as of December 31, 2021.
The municipal government has also disbursed P11.7 million as payment to the contractor tasked to implement the project, the audit report stated.
In response to COA’s questions, the LGU told state auditors they have since applied for ECC and NWRPB permits last November 24, 2021.
As a result, COA instructed executives and officials of Bantayan town to make a follow-up on the status of their ECC and NWRPB permit applications.
The local government also assured the state auditing body that they have completed other basic requirements before proceeding with the implementation.
These included conducting public hearings, getting clearance from the town council and the Bantayan Island Wilderness Area – Protected Area Management Board (BIWA-PAMB), and that authorities from the Department of Environment of Natural Resources (DENR) have already made an ocular inspection on the site before civil works began.
“They further commented that the representatives from the DENR have already conducted an ocular inspection of the said project and have not indicated any adverse findings, but this was only made verbally,” said COA.
DENR is the sole government body tasked with issuing ECCs for projects that have a significant impact on the environment and other natural resources.
COA, in turn, also suggested for the municipality to ask for temporary clearance from the concerned government agencies to serve as proof that the desalination plant complied with state regulations.
Bantayan is among the three municipalities that comprise Bantayan Island, located around 140 kilometers northwest of Cebu City. /rcg
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