Law enforcement must not always be punitive in nature, so said Environment Chief Roy A. Cimatu in a message read by Undersecretary for Field Operations, Enforcement and Muslim Affairs, Jim O Sampulna during the opening program of the Strategic Planning Workshop on Environmental Protection and Enforcement held at Zuri Hotel in Iloilo City on February 19, 2020.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is pursuing the creation of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) that will focus on enforcing environmental laws and regulations. “This would ensure that we have the proper set of teeth to protect the environment,” Cimatu said.

In saying such, Cimatu believed that enforcement of environmental laws is not just punitive in nature, “but also protective and proactive.”

“We want to win the hearts and minds of the people. We not only want to catch the bad guys, but prevent them from executing their plans. Better yet, we want to empower and enlist ordinary people to help us in the task of saving the environment,” Cimatu added.

Cimatu took note that the Boracay Challenge and Battle for Manila Bay are just the “tip of the iceberg” and that the DENR mandates mean we all need to protect every millimetre of our territory from environmental degradation. This is why the DENR uses the ridge-to-reef approach in implementing its programs and projects.

The DENR is indeed hounded by many environmental issues and concerns more than it can handle such as the continued proliferation of illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, poaching, illegal mining, and even “corruption within our ranks”, Secretary Cimatu bluntly told the workshop participants.

Through the Strategic Planning Workshop, topics on environmental protection and enforcement laws, rules and regulations by each Bureau were discussed. It is also to set policy directions to address the different issues and concerns environmental protection and enforcement in the field level; to present and discuss updates on the formulation of the Bill creating the EPEB; and to equip everyone involved in the protection and law enforcement with proper knowledge and skills in handling environmental concerns; and to gather database information on the field operations, intelligence reports and documentation of case.

DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Francisco E. Milla, Jr. said that “through the EPEB, we expect a more empowered DENR who will wear the ‘teeth’ to let our environmental laws be able to ‘bite’ or prosecute environmental law violators, confiscate and destroy structures and equipment used to pollute the environment.”

At the conclusion of the Strategic Planning Workshop, it is aimed to set the policy directions on environmental protection and enforcement for CY 2020 in support to the proposed bill that will create the EPEB.