DENR 6 strengthens enforcement of environmental laws

(Right photo from left) BFAR Regional Director  Remia A. Aparri (extreme left); DENR 6 RD Jim O Sampulna (center) and DENR Central Office Director, Legal Service for Luzon Atty. Wilfredo B. Saraos (extreme right) graced the environmental law enforcement and prosecution learning event attended by participants (right picture) coming from DENR line agencies and LGUs directly involved in environmental protection and management, just recently.


            “If we are to ensure environmental protection, we must strongly implement environmental laws,” said DENR 6 Regional Director Jim O Sampulna during a recent Learning Event on Environmental Law Enforcement and Prosecution.  He also stressed the need to enforce the full force of the law thru the proper court against the perpetrators of the environment.


                 Topics tackled during the Learning Event have opened the eyes of members of the judiciary and other stakeholders on the need to give “teeth” to environmental laws. “This is a very important event for DENR and partner agencies in advancing the protection of the environment,” Director Sampulna stressed.


           BFAR Regional Director Remia A. Aparri acknowledged the great task of the DENR whose mandate towards the protection and management of the environment covers from “ridge to reef” and needs the cooperation of all stakeholders. 


              “The environment has its constitutional right to a balanced ecology. We must therefore be vigilant about this. Although we have complete laws that mandate the protection of the environment, we lack strong enforcement,” noted Atty. Jose Edmund E. Guillen, Regional Director, Public Attorney’s Office Region VI.


               In 2008, the Supreme Court has designated 45 lower courts as Green Courts. Also there are 48 first level courts and 24 second level trial courts assigned to handle all types of environmental cases including violations of Republic Act No. 7586 (National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992) and Republic Act No. 8550 (Fisheries Code).


            With that strong support from the SC, the 117 “green courts” are expected to improve environmental adjudication and to expedite the resolution of all pending environmental cases nationwide.


          The environmental courts were created based on the proposal made during an international environmental conference in 2007 held at Edsa Shangri–La sponsored by the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network (AECEN).


                 During the Learning Event on Environmental Law Enforcement and Prosecution, the participants were updated on the laws/jurisprudence, rules and regulations under the green court and other relevant environmental laws and issuances by Atty. Wilfredo B. Saraos, concurrent Director, Legal Services for Luzon of the DENR Central Office. “There is still a great deal of implementation we must make in terms of environmental law enforcement. The destruction of the environment seems to outweigh the speedy resolution of environmental cases,” said Atty. Saraos.


              Atty. Camilo D. Garcia, OIC Chief of the Law Enforcement and Licenses Division, DENR Central Office Legal Service, discussed the salient provisions of R.A. 7586 (NIPAS Act of 1992), R.A. 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act), R.A. 9154 (Mt. Kanlaon National Park Act of 2001) and Ecotourism.


             Other topics discussed during the event are the Fisheries Code as amended and other coastal and fishery laws, rules and regulations by Atty. Demostheness R. Escuto of BFAR, OIC, Legal Division; Updates in Forestry Sector with emphasis on the implementation of Forestry Code, Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force, Tree Cutting Permits by Forester Raul Briz, Chief of Forest Protection Section, Forest Management Bureau (FMB); Rules and Procedures on Summary Administrative Apprehension and Seizure pursuant to DAO 97-32 and Harmonization of Protocol in Filing Complaint for Violation of Environmental Laws by Atty. Alma T. Delos Reyes-Lanzo, FMB’s Legal Officer.


            The last topic had acquainted the stakeholders on the preparation of witnesses’ affidavit and filing of inquest/regular filing and on the preparation of forms and reports.


      The event was held in partnership with the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), the Department of Agriculture (DA) – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 6.


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'Tropical Design' in Boracay Pushed

The Municipal Planning and Urban Design Guidelines Review Committee (MPUDGRC) created by the local government of Malay, Aklan under Executive Order No. 10 signed by then Acting Mayor Abram Sualog, mandates the review of plans for the construction of new structures or renovations to be done on buildings in Boracay Island, as well as the inspection of the progress of developments to ensure that they follow the island’s “tropical design” rules.

            The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) believes that the “tropical design” will be the new branding of the islands’ infrastructures to the tourism industry. Aside from this, the design that will be done on the existing buildings shall be environment-friendly while at the same time promote a local culture. Thus, this may add as an additional attraction in the island aside from its famous turquoise water and powdery-white sand.

The ordinance emphasizes the use of wood, bamboo, "stone elements," non-combustible thatched roofing, and earth-tone colors as exterior and interior paint for structures.

It also calls for the integration of design elements such as large windows to allow for natural lighting and cooling, high ceilings for better air circulation, tropical elements in building entrances, and landscaped areas with local/native trees and plants.

The guidelines also require the use of ancient script “Baybayin” as the main language for signages, with translations in English and other languages as needed.

The guidelines were issued a few months after the reopening of the island paradise in October. It was shut down for six months last year for rehabilitation, after President Rodrigo Duterte sounded the alarm on environmental degradation and overdevelopment on the island.

The DENR 6 is glad to hear such news, as it would support Boracay’s carrying capacity by using light materials instead of heavy-concrete one in building establishments at the island.  

Furthermore, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu noted that the whole rehabilitation keeps getting better during its first year.

The highest coliform level recorded for the past months was only 40 most probable number (mpn) per 100 milliliters. It passed the safe level of 100  mpn/ml for Class SB water that is suitable for swimming, skin diving and other recreational activities.

Aside from that, Secretary Cimatu also said that there is “no algae year-round”, indicating that the rehabilitation effort had paid off. Fifty one (51) establishments along the white beach now have their own sewage treatment plants (STPs) while others are now connected to the sewer line.

Meanwhile, the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) celebrated a week-long “Sustainability Week” dubbed as #LoveBOracay, which is a celebration of the one year Boracay Closure. The activities run from April 26-May 1, 2019 and focused on the need to keep Boracay Island sustainable.  

Food fest, exhibits, drone festival, ocean jams, sustainable talks and clean ups were the activities done for the whole week.

            DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Fransisco E. Milla, Jr. said that aside from the branding design this may help the environmental concerns of the island. “This (tropical design) will help the island to breathe freely from heavy constructions. Aside from that, this will help ease the burden on the island’s carrying capacity and pollution, from air conditioned-concrete buildings in the island,” RED Milla said.


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