The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is pushing for the creation of an Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) to also protect its team of forest enforcers.

Despite the will to preserve our natural resources, the Department experiences loss of lives of its field officers, forest rangers, and forest protection officers while performing their task to protect the country’s resources from environmental criminals. The disturbing counts of killings prompted DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to create a bureau that will give the DENR stronger enforcement powers.

The DENR officials come up with the creation of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) and prepared the draft of the proposed bill that aims to maintain an effective enforcement laws, rules and regulation to protect the rights of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology, institutionalize enforcement systems and strategies using the advanced reliable technologies, establishing forensic laboratory that ensure evidences of environmental crimes and environmental law enforcement training course and skill enhancement.

“I appealed to Congress to authorize the creation of the proposed EPEB that allows our forest protectors to be trained and armed for self-defense. Environmental security should include the security of the people in enforcing environmental laws against armed illegal loggers, poachers, wildlife traffickers, and other environmental criminals,” Cimatu said.

Last week, Undersecretary for Field Operations, Enforcement and Muslim Affairs, Jim O. Sampulna spearheaded the Strategic Planning Workshop on Environmental Protection and Enforcement here in Iloilo City. Different assistant secretaries, bureau directors, regional executive directors, assistant regional directors for technical services, PENRO’s and enforcement division chiefs gathered to tackle their best practices, strategies, and consultation to strengthen the proposed bill.

The EPEB will strengthen forest protection and law enforcement in forest lands by eradicating illegal logging and mining, expand forest plantation through programs and projects such as Forest Management Project (FMP), Forest Protection Program (FPP), Community-based Forest Management (CBFM) and Enhanced National Greening Program (ENGP) that help lessen the impact of catastrophes caused by the destruction of natural resources.

The Philippines is among the 17 megadiverse countries in the world that abound with unique species of flora and fauna. It has a total area of 29,987,008 hectares which comprised of forest lands with a total area of 15,792,333 hectares (53%) and Alienable and Disposable (A&D) lands with a total area of 14,194,675 hectares (47%).

Although the country is enriched with natural resources, it faces a decline at an alarming rate.  It is known to have the highest number of threatened species in the world and our natural forest cover is gradually decreasing and degrading due to commercial logging to supply the demand of Philippine forest products for industrial and household purposes.

The DENR exerts effort to increase the country’s forest cover and mitigate the impact of climate change as well as saving threatened species to sustain the balance of the ecosystem.

In Western Visayas, there’s strong enforcement of environmental laws brought by the massive information and education campaign assisting the public. The task Amlig Western Visayas organization optimizes ridge to reef environmental and natural resources protection, management and conservation with coordination of different stakeholders to address environmental issues and concerns, prosecuting environmental law violators in the region.

“The creation of the EPEB will surely stretch the safety and protection of our enforcement officers on the field against environmental criminals, fulfilling our mandate to protect and preserve our country’s environment and natural resources,” said DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Francisco E. Milla, Jr.#DENR6