Attention, Business Owners: Here Are the Environmental Laws and Regulations You Need to Know
Starting a business here in the Philippines can be overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider: location, demand, and traffic, among others. It takes real determination to get things off the ground. Then there's the matter of government documents and red tape.
But there's no shortcut to success, and compliance matters, especially compliance with the government's environmental regulations. Your business will inevitably have an impact on the environment, and there's legislation in place to minimize that impact.
In most cases, the Local Government Units (LGUs) in your area of operation will have their own set of guidelines. There are, however, some regulations you’ll need to comply with while you’re still setting things up. Non-compliance often comes with fines and, in extreme cases, the closure of your operations. So compliance isn't only the right thing to do for the environment—it's also in your best business interests. Here are three such regulations that tend to be overlooked.
'Non-Environmentally Acceptable Packaging' is Prohibited by Law
The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003), which aims to reduce the pollution caused by garbage and other forms of solid waste, is extensive in its scope. Most of the guidelines fall upon LGUs to enact, but they are, for the most part, universal across the board. The mandatory segregation of waste products is a good example of the more widely applied regulations.
What most entrepreneurs don’t know from the get-go, however, is the provision on what types of packaging are permitted. According to Chapter 3, Article 4, Sec. 30 of RA 9003, the use of Non-Environmentally Acceptable Packaging (NEAP) is prohibited.
The definition of NEAPs is where it starts to get sticky. The National Solid Waste Management Commission was supposed to release a list of NEAPs within one year of RA 9003’s signing into law, allowing businesses to avoid using prohibited packaging. The list has yet to be released as of this writing, 17 years past its due date.
This hasn’t stopped today’s businesses from hedging their bets and transitioning to more eco-friendly packaging, however, and it’s something you should strongly consider, too. Going with environmentally acceptable materials—defined in the Act as “re-usable, biodegradable or compostable, recyclable and not toxic or hazardous to the environment”—will essentially future-proof your business for when the list of NEAPs is finally released.
Does Your Business Have a Kitchen? It's Most Likely Subject to Emissions Laws
When we think of emissions laws, we immediately think of smoke-belching vehicles and the efforts to get them off the road. And while every business needs to make sure that its vehicles pass emissions standards, not everyone thinks to look at their kitchen equipment.
Under Part VII, Section 5 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Philippine Clean Air Act (RA 8749), all “re-heating furnaces, smoke ovens, bake ovens, coffee heaters, varnish kettles, paint booths and similar equivalent” are listed as “miscellaneous equipment” covered by the Act’s rules. This means that, like other industrial burners, the ovens and roasters at your café need to be designed in such a way that there’s no free flow of their exhaust into the atmosphere.
In most cases, this entails making sure that whatever exhaust systems you have in place also have anti-pollution features such as filters and purifiers. While this is pretty much standard for all establishments, you’d benefit from being extra-careful about it and having your exhaust options double-checked.
You’re Responsible for Getting Your Business Connected to the Sewerage System
Businesses generate wastewater, and that wastewater has to go somewhere. If you're based in the big city, that means the sewerage system. The thing is, while the Clean Water Act (RA 9275) requires concessionaires like Maynilad to connect businesses to the sewerage system, the system can only accept “domestic quality” wastewater.
As such, before Maynilad can accept a business owner’s application for sewer connection, the business owner is first required to install a pre-treatment facility—one that will bring the establishment’s wastewater down to domestic quality. Otherwise, the integrity of Maynilad’s treatment facilities will be compromised. If your business sits outside sewered areas, however, the wastewater it generates cannot be treated by Maynilad, so you need to have your own sewage treatment plant instead of a mere pre-treatment facility.
Unfortunately, because all these entail an initial investment, many entrepreneurs neglectfully forgo them.
This is an irresponsible decision that causes many more problems in the long run. Aside from causing harm to the environment, non-compliance with proper wastewater management guidelines could mean incurring hefty fines—as high as P1 million, in some cases.
Considering all the consequences that a business owner stands to suffer, it is wiser to invest in pre-treatment facilities and a connection to the sewerage system (for those in sewered areas) or a sewage treatment plant (for those in unsewered areas). While it might hurt the wallet a bit, you’re saving yourself—and the environment—from much bigger problems.
The good news is that Maynilad can help make the whole process a lot more hassle-free (at least, for those whose businesses are located in sewered areas). Once you connect to its sewerage system, the water concessionaire can take care of everything from conveyance to further treatment to discharge. All that’ll be left on your end is the maintenance of your pre-treatment facilities.
When your business is officially compliant, Maynilad can then issue a Certificate of Interconnection, which serves as a legal document that you can submit to the DENR and other regulatory bodies as proof of your business’ compliance.
For businesses outside sewered areas that need to build their own sewage treatment plant, they can consult with Maynilad to determine the right kind of sewage treatment plant for their type of effluent quality.
Compliance with environmental laws might be one more headache to add to the many that come with being an entrepreneur, but it’s a necessary one. After all, you don’t want to be spoiling the planet for everyone else.
This video by Maynilad explains its services: