Resto closure legal, LLDA insists
- Katherine Adraneda () - September 8, 2002 - 12:00am
The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) insisted yesterday that the closure order enforced on a famous restaurant in Binondo, Manila was legal and underwent due process of law.

In an interview with The STAR, LLDA assistant general manager Dolly Nepomuceno said the case involving the Savory Restaurant has been ongoing for three years now.

Despite numerous notices of violations (NOVs) served on management, the establishment has continuously failed to comply with environmental rules and regulations, Nepomuceno pointed out.

"The cease and desist order we issued on Savory was legal. It was issued after thorough observation and legal procedures," she stressed.

Her reaction came after Manila Mayor Lito Atienza warned officials and enforcers of the LLDA that they face arrest and prosecution if they do not stop the indiscriminate closing down of establishments in his city.

Atienza branded LLDA’s move as "illegal activities," which sends a bad signal to the business community in Manila.

Savory Restaurant was ordered closed Thursday by the LLDA for violations of the law on water waste treatment systems.

Nepomuceno said the case of Savory began in 2000, when the LLDA issued the first NOV after the restaurant was found to have no necessary documents, such as the discharge permit. It was also issued after laboratory tests were made on the establishment’s water samples.

The same violations were allegedly found when the LLDA conducted another round of observations on the operations of Savory.

"We have no choice but to enforce the law because despite the due process we have extended to them, they did not comply. They should have installed necessary measures like the waste water treatment facility," she noted.

Nepomuceno said it was only on Friday that Savory paid some P359,000 of an estimated P700,000 accumulated fine for continued defiance of the environmental rules.

When asked about Atienza’s demand for the LLDA to coordinate its moves with the local government, Nepomuceno explained that under their charter, the LLDA will seek assistance from the local police.

She noted that in the past, whenever they informed LGUs about the serving of a closure order, the subject establishment was being informed ahead of their arrival. "Thus, they lock their restaurants or shops and we can no longer enter. But with this procedure, nobody has ever complained, until now."

Nepomuceno said that LLDA general manager Calixto Cataquiz will seek an audience with Atienza tomorrow to explain to the mayor LLDA’s procedures in enforcing closure orders on establishments as well as clarify certain issues surrounding the closure order for Savory.

"We acknowledge that Mayor Atienza is among the most active local officials in environmental campaigns. We both have the common objective, which is to protect the environment," she said.

The LLDA is a regulatory agency with regulatory functions that involves among others the pinpointing of sources of water pollution within the Laguna de Bay region, which include Manila, and closure of pollutive sources or establishments.

Atienza warned the LLDA and its personnel yesterday that they risk facing legal action, including arrest, if they insist on operating in the city without proper coordination.

He continued to criticize the agency for failing to follow proper procedure and not coordinating with the city government in closing the Savory for allegedly dumping waste water into the Pasig River.

"The LLDA is not an omnipotent government arm that it can operate anywhere with impunity. It cannot run roughshod over business establishments in Manila," Atienza said.

The mayor said he has ordered the Western Police District to arrest any personnel of the LLDA or any other agency that operates in the city, especially those enforcing closure orders on business establishments, without coordinating with the city government," he said.

Atienza also ordered the police not to assist or get involved in the operations of the LLDA if it has not coordinated its actions with the Manila City government.

He also ordered former councilor Rino Tolentino, current director of the Manila Business Promotions and Development Office (BPDO), to meet with the management of Savory and extend whatever assistance necessary as part of his business development functions.

"If there is indeed a violation of laws, rules or regulations committed by any business entity, any action would have to be coordinated with us. Either they follow due process or they stay out of Manila," he said. – With Mike Frialde

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