Zubiri calls for Senate investigation on fishkill

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Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, today urged the Laguna Lake Development Authority to exercise its powers which has been supported by no less than the Supreme Court (SC) in a decision handed down last week. The SC said the LLDA has the power to impose fines as “a regulatory and quasi-judicial body” with regard to pollution cases in the Laguna de Bay area. This power is derived from Executive Order (EO) 927 which defines the functions and authority of the LLDA.

Zubiri made this call following a TV news report of fishkill in Barangay Kaingin, Sta. Rosa, Laguna that has been going on for three days (Oct. 18-20).

“This act of pollution is destroying one of our lifelines that provides water, food and livelihood for 14 million people in Metro Manila, Laguna and Rizal. The establishments responsible should be shut down.”

He further noted that persons and establishment responsible for the fishkill should be punished for violations of the Clean Water Act.

“If the discharge of those chemicals to the water was deliberate on the part of the erring company, they should face stiff penalties as provided by the Clean Water Act. That’s why I am calling for an investigation by the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources to look deeper into what have caused the fishkill,” Zubiri said.

Concerned agencies should investigate the source of the pollution under the Clean Water Act or R. A. 9275. He cited the following:

“SECTION 27. Prohibited Acts. – The following acts are hereby prohibited:

a) Discharging, depositing or causing to be deposited material of any kind directly or indirectly into the water bodies or along the margins of any surface water, where, the same shall be liable to be washed into such surface water, either by tide action or by storm, floods or otherwise, which could cause water pollution or impede natural flow in the water body.”

“We provided for the polluter pays principle in the Clean Water Act, specifically Section 16 of Clean-Up Operations where expenses for the clean-up should be shouldered by the polluter. The polluter should ‘remove and clean-up any pollution incident at his own expense to the extent that the same water bodies have been rendered unfit for utilization and beneficial use.’ Government agencies should also waste no time and conduct containment, removal and clean-up operations as emergency clean-up operations – which costs shall be reimbursed by the polluters.”

Violators face fines ranging from not less than P10,000 nor more than P200,000 for every day of violation. Meanwhile, “failure to undertake clean-up operations, willfully, or through gross negligence” shall be punished by imprisonment from two years to not more than four years and a fine ranging from P50,000 to P100,000 per day for each day of violation. If failure to clean up results in serious injury or loss of life and/or irreversible water contamination of surface, ground, coastal and marine water, the polluter faces imprisonment from six (6) years and one day to not more than 12 years, and a fine of P500,000 per day for each day during which the omission and/or contamination continues.

The responsible establishments are also subject to closure, suspension of development or construction, or cessation of operations during the pendency of the case.

“We can’t ignore these fishkills which disrupt the livelihood of thousands of fishermen and the millions of poor who fish for their dinner from Laguna de Bay,” Zubiri lamented.

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