CA upholds Baguio law; mayor orders fast probe of Camp 7 batching plant

>> Thursday, August 3, 2017

By Dexter A. See 

BAGUIO CITY –   Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan ordered the newly created Camp 7 batching plant task force to hasten joint inspection of the cement batching plant in barangay Camp 7 to find out its violations to the city’s zoning ordinance and Environment Code which can warrant its closure ending predicament of residents living within its vicinity who pushed its closure.
This, after the 17th Division of the Court of Appeals upheld the legality and constitutionality of Ordinance No. 043, series of 2007 or the city’s anti-batching plant ordinance overruling the decision of a lower court that declared the said local legislative measure as flawed.
In a 31-page decision signed by Associate Justices Ramon A. Cruz, Marlene Gonzales-Sison and Henri Lean Paul B. Inting, the CA cited there being a mixture of questions of facts and of law, the local government correctly instituted its appeal.
The decision added the assailed ordinance was passed by the City Council in the exercise of its police power, an enactment of the local legislative body acting as agent of Congress and local government units, as agencies of the State, are endowed with police power to effectively accomplish and carry out the declared objects of their creation and they exercise police power through their respective legislative bodies.
It stated the Local Government Code of 1991 empowered the local legislative bodies to enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare of the city and its inhabitants and the proper exercise of the corporate powers of the city.
The decision pointed out the said rule is that every statute is presumed valid and on the party challenging its validity weighs heavily the onerous task of rebutting the said presumption and a reasonable doubt about the validity of the law should be resolved in favor of its constitutionality.
 “Every court is charged with the duty of a purposeful hesitation before declaring a law unconstitutional, on the theory that the measure was first carefully studied by the executive and the legislative departments and determined by them to be in accordance with the fundamental law before it was finally approved. The presumption of constitutionality can be overcome by the clearest showing that there was indeed an infraction of the Constitution, and only when such a conclusion is reached by the required majority may the court pronounce, in the discharge of the duty it cannot escape, that the challenged act must be struck down,” the decision stated.
The decision found out that it is necessary for both parties to present evidence to settle the factual issues of the case that the operation of the batching plant is an environmental hazard and that the destruction of the environment has continued at an increasing and alarming rate and the CA recognized the necessity to curb the same and the objective of the City Council to protect the tourism industry of the city as well as the health of its people and a healthful ecology, is commendable as long as it does not contravene the Constitution.
While the city can regulate the operation of batching plants to ensure their compliance with environmental laws, not even under the guise of police power, the CA stipulated Ordinance No. 043, series of 2007 was enacted within the limits of the Constitution, as there was no absolute prohibition against all batching plants, but only those that are inimical to a balanced and healthful ecology.
However, the CA noted the local government must show that the owner of the Camp 7 batching plant violated the said ordinance justifying the issuance of the closure order being questioned.
The case was remanded to the local court for the conduct of a full blown hearing regarding violations.
Domogan followed recommendation of city building official Engr. Nazita Bañez to use the violations of the batching plant to cancel the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by the Cordillera office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-CAR) which is allegedly being used by the operator as a legal justification for its continuous operation.
 “We believe the local government has sufficient legal bases to close the operation of the Camp 7 batching plant because of our existing zoning ordinance that declared the area as residential area and the city’s Environment Code which provides the guidelines operating environmentally critical projects,” Domogan said.


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