Issue of March 26, 2017
Mt. Province

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Treasure hunt sets pattern for revision of Env’t Code
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

The city council may have to contend with either having in effect repealed the Environment Code of Baguio without following the process or violated the ordinance when it allowed the treasure hunting at the Baguio Convention Center.

Councilor Peter Fianza, one of those who abstained from voting whether or not to grant the request of treasure hunter Eliseo Cabusao for an exemption from the coverage of the Environment Code, is of the opinion that the code, which bans treasure hunting in the city should have been repealed first upon the realization that such provision has to submit to the primacy of national laws.

In this case, the National Museum’s authority to grant treasure hunting permits cannot be superseded by an ordinance.

“With that realization, we have to first set aside that particular provision of the ordinance. What happened was, when we realized that there is a national law that grants treasure hunting permits, the Environment Code was set aside. In effect, first: the code has been repealed, so as a sign of protest to this process, I did not vote. Or, we right away violated the ordinance that we have just enacted,” Fianza said.

The councilor raised concerns about the existence of national laws allowing treasure hunting, as well as on mining and water rights – which are sanctioned under the Environment Code – during the last phases of the code’s deliberation last December, when it was approved. The city council subsequently decided it could make the amendments or set the guidelines during the crafting of the implementing rules and regulations after the passage of the ordinance.

Fianza said another reason he abstained is the lack of coordination with the concerned local government unit before the National Museum granted the treasure hunting permit to the applicant.

Fianza said it is true and recognized that the National Museum has the authority in granting the permit, but before the enactment of Republic Act 10066 that gave the agency such power, concerned local government units used to be consulted first before any permit is issued.

Authority to grant treasure hunting permits was formerly a function of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Before, DENR had to check first and ask the LGU concerned or where the activity will be undertaken to take a look at the application. It was only upon the endorsement of the LGU or upon showing that it has no objection that it issues a permit. That did not happen in the current arrangement,” Fianza said.

He said, in fact, without consulting the LGU and thinking that the property is owned by the national government, the proceeds in the event the exploration turns up positive are shared by the national government and the treasure hunter.

It was only when Cabusao informed the National Museum management that the city has objections because it claims it is their property that they included the city in the sharing scheme.

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