Environmental Closures

Seizing opportunities to influence the prevention and conduct of rehabilitation efforts in environmental risk-based and regulatory closures

What are Environmental Closures?

Environmental closures refer to the limitation or cessation of the use of or activity in a specific site or area imposed by the government, to address potential or existing risks/hazards to human health and/or the environment. The closure could be preventative, to avoid impending or further harm. It could also be rehabilitative, where a closure is needed to restore a site to its previous condition.

In other contexts, these are referred to as "risk-based" or "regulatory closures" and are often related to pollution, waste management, habitat destruction or degradation, or a combination of these. Closures can be issued for a limited time, indefinitely, or in some cases permanently.

Why do they matter?

Environmental closures have been routinely used to respond to overexploitation of protected areas or resources therein. Closures in sites falling outside the (legal) definition of a protected area are less common. There is therefore less clarity as to how they should be approached or regulated, causing not only confusion and misunderstanding, but also potentially leading to the violation of stakeholders' rights.

With the recent closure of Boracay Island, one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines, a multitude of questions has been raised around the appropriate way to go about rehabilitation efforts in such tourist hotspots. We anticipate that more of these kinds of closures will continue to crop up, especially as other destinations – and local governments, businesses, workers, and residents therein – have become intent on avoiding becoming the "next Boracay."

Because the problem of environmental closures (outside of protected areas) is a novel one, many affected stakeholders and other concerned groups are in search of additional guidance and assistance, especially regarding laws, policies, and regulations that apply to their situation.

How can we help?

Parabukas is experienced in dissecting complex legal and regulatory issues related to the environment. At the same time, we consistently seek to contextualize a problem within its broader social and governance setting, ensuring that impacts on people and communities are also taken into account.

Our approach to environmental closures can be as general and far-reaching as the development of guidelines (e.g., for government agencies, LGUs, and businesses) on preventing or avoiding closures, or outlining steps to be taken once a closure has been declared. It can also be more targeted to the needs of a specific group, for example analyzing the rights of workers affected by a closure and providing advice on how to protect or defend those rights.

The novelty and complexity of environmental closures presents many opportunities for creative solutions that differ from case to case, a challenge that Parabukas looks forward to taking on.