Highly Productive Public Hearings On SP Proposals
by ERNESTO T. SOLIDUM
The two-day marathon public hearing of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) held at its Session Hall on September 19-20, 2013 tackled five pieces of proposed ordinances intended to upgrade business, health and environmental climate of Aklan. Three of which are: a) Ordinance to regulate the installation, posting, hanging and display of billboards, streamers, posters, banners and other similar forms of signages of commercial products, b) Ordinance to regulate the utilization and disposal of plastic products as packaging materials of goods, and c) Ordinance to regulate the operation of junkshops in the Province of Aklan and imposing penalties for its violation. These are all sponsored by Vice Gov. Gabrielle Calizo-Quimpo.
The proposed prohibitory regulations are: a) Ordinance prohibiting any person from uttering, insulting and humiliating words against senior citizens and persons with disabilities, and b) Ordinance prohibiting the burning of any material on or near the poles/towers and facilities of public utilities. The former is sponsored jointly by Hon. Plaridel M. Morania and Hon. Lilian Q. Tirol, while the latter is by Hon. Plaridel M. Morania.
An impressive number of stakeholders, resource persons, public officials from all 17 municipalities, NGO’s and multi-media personnel attended unfazed by heavy rains. Vice Gov. Gabrielle V. Calizo-Quimpo mentioned that the drafts handed to the attendees are the results of at least three previous committee hearings with stakeholders. Hon. Plaridel M. Morania, Chairman Committee on Laws, Rules and Ordinances concedes that even if the drafts have been refined to such an extent, an expanded public hearing is required to consider more creative ideas to produce quality legislation.
The rationale of the ordinance on installation, posting and display of billboards and streamers is in full accord with the eco-tourism thrust as one of engines of economic growth in Aklan.
Mr. Joselito Motus, a Kalibo businessman bewailed the utter disregard of telecommunication and cable TV companies which service lines are endangering public safety. Tangled lines or spaghetti connections are strung on poles barely 25 feet above the ground and oftentimes snag 20 footer container vans while plying the Republic Nautical Highway. The majority of their poles is deteriorating or about to collapse and appear eye sores.
This is corroborated by Vice Governor Calizo-Quimpo that time and time again, this subject crops up. Fuming between her teeth, “Probably our patience is running out for service providers to comply with international standard practice”. Increasing height of their fiber optics cable to 40 feet above the ground especially inside the Poblacion or population centers may ease traffic burden of motorists and commuters.
Plastics and Styrofoam trash is considered culprit for the clogging of drainage canals during moonson season and or flooding. They are classified as persistent organic pollutants. Its proliferation is due to the improper use and disposal of plastic residues. Not one municipality in Aklan has a sanitary landfill hence, more plastic wastes go to sewage canals and rivers.
Based on the stated coverage and exemption clause, the ordinance on regulating the use of plastic will achieve an estimated volume decrease of 50 percent because the only one affected is the secondary packing or wrapping materials that can be replaced with eco-friendly wrappers like paper, banana leaves, cloth bags, and buri bags (bayong, tampipi).
On the other hand, Mr. Crispin Lao, Pres. of Philippine Plastic Industry Assn. strongly warns legislators and implementers in the abrupt phase out of plastic. He said that replacement of plastic by paper bags could pose a serious threat to the environment since it will involve cutting down of thousands of forest trees. It takes seven (7) times more energy consumption to manufacture paper bags and 5 times the energy to recycle them. Moreover, paper bags take four (4) times its weight to carry the same load as against a plastic bag.
But, paper comes from fast growing paper trees (Abizza falcatta) widely grown as commercial plantation in Mindanao. Newspapers can serve as wrapping materials.
The junkshop ordinance is crafted to regulate the industry and promote higher quality service to achieve competitive edge. Substantive measure is to instill orderliness and professionalism among stakeholders to deal with regulated and monitored junk materials that are bought, sorted and transported from households by ambulant buyers to junkshop owners.
Unfortunately, only three (3) percent of junkshop operators in Aklan are capable to comply with the stringent requirements of the proposed ordinance. Mr. Roger Sabino may be the exception since he has installed in his facility a CCTV camera. Forthwith, the PNP is recommending that other operators must follow suit to discourage theft especially telephone wires and water meters by minors.
The Committee has acceded to a 100 meter junkyard area favoring small operators. The problem could be exacerbated since the small entrepreneurs could operate right at their homes or at doorstep which is dangerous. Junkshops must be located inside industrial zones owing to its hazardous nature. The most probable solution is to form into a cooperative so they could accumulate enough capital to invest in semi-permanent buildings, stocks, transport vehicle, locate in a minimum 300 sq. m. lot, construct firewall and hire ambulant junk buyers/pickers.
Since junkshops have the potential to pollute underground water, it is advisable that Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) must be secured before junkshop operation is approved. Operators have difficulty in disposing their toxic waste or residuals. This is serious problem in Numancia and Ibajay as there is no dumpsite.
The anti-scorching ordinance is noble in its objective in as much as service providers of power, telecommunication and cable TV are safeguarded from destructive acts of lawless elements. However, it has limited scope since the poles/towers are more often destroyed not by fire but by cutting down the transmission poles or towers by hand saw or hack saw. They are also vulnerable to mortar fire coming from RPG or M-16 grenade launcher.
The anti sneering ordinance leveled on senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWD) is amply covered by libel law. It also carries a heavy penalty for offenders. The sponsor cites Article III, Section 2 which directs the Provincial Prosecutor to exercise due discretion. “Upon appreciation of evidence and seriousness of the case, the Provincial Prosecutor may apply the penal provisions of the Senior Citizen’s Act or RA 74321”.
The proposal suffers inherent defect since senior citizens with a hearing infirmity can be immune against verbal abuse. It would be best if the framers include crimes against persons such as bodily harm, theft or robbery. Furthermore, benefits passed by Congress to senior citizens and PWD’s particularly the P500 allowance per month to indigents, 20 percent discount on transport, medicine and 5 percent discount on basic consumer goods and utilities like water and electricity be automatic and strictly enforced. But implementation is still to be improved. It appears that our enacted laws have no teeth against powerful businessmen and industry leaders. /MP