The issuance of DENR Department Administrative Order No. 2015-08 is fraught with legal infirmities.
DENR DAO 2015-08 declares the Loon-Maribojoc uplifted coast as aÂ geological monument.
There were certain coasts that previously had been below the sea that were uplifted as a result of the Bohol earthquake, forming a mass of land of about 137 hectares in the coasts of Maribojoc and Loon.
Itâ€™s a pretty large mass of natural resource with such valuable economic potential that any one in government authority would drool over.
Like in the game of chess, the DENR, a national agency, makes the first move.
DENR DAO 2015-08 was issued by DENR Secretary Ramon Paje on May 14, 2015 and published on May 16, 2015 in a national daily and registered with the National Administrative Register (UP law Center) on May 18, 2015.
Hence as early as last June 2, 2015,Â this Dept. Administrative Order is already in effect.
Under this Dept Admin Order (DAO), the Mines and Geosciences Board (MGB) will already enforce the DAO by conducting â€œground verificationâ€ of the Technical Description of the uplifted mass â€œwithin 30 days from effectivity of the Order.â€
Within thirty days from completion of the ground verification, the MGB shall install a marker declaring the area as the â€œLoon-Maribojoc Geological Monumentâ€
If the affected local residents and local governments do nothing to restrain this, the DAO will ram upon their throats this dubious declaration through the DAO.
In the first place, having the DAO published just two days after its issuance raises some eyebrows. Whatâ€™s the haste?
The DAO thus raises legal questions.
First, the constitutional concept of local autonomy appears breached.
The political subdivisions enjoy local autonomy.
Yet the local governments and the residents themselves seem to have been bypassed and kept in the dark over this declaration.
The local government code, further explains local autonomy by mandating coordination with stakeholders in the political subdivisions.
Section 25 (b) of the local government code states the nationalÂ agenciesÂ and offices with project implementationÂ functions shall coordinate with one another and with local government units concerned in the discharge of their functions.
Equally, if not more important, is the requirement of prior consultation, also required by the local government code.
The law does not say simultaneous consultation, or subsequent consultation. The law says â€œpriorâ€ consultation.
Sections 26 and 27 of the local government code appears to have been breached.
Local autonomy has been inscribed in our Constitution to erase the stigma absolute dominion of an imperial central government over matters that should, primarily be handled by local authorities.
At the same time, the local government code explains what local autonomy means, which is not to totally strip the national government of any authority to implement its programs, but to â€œcoordinateâ€ and to â€œconsult.â€
The balancing of interest in our laws is pretty clear.
We also understand the concerns of the national government over suchÂ huge territorial and economic mass that suddenly arose from the depths of the seabed.
Concerns may mean eliciting fears the valuable matter might end up being sold, then used toÂ reclaim Johor, or beach fronts in other tourist spots both here and abroad.
But the basic requirements of coordination and prior consultation are indispensable, so that from the beginning, everything is placed in the open, so that the ultimate stakeholders, the residents and the citizens in general, are adequately informed about what this mass of geological monument is really all about.