The year 2022 may have been a recovery year in the economic and health aspects of the country. But environmental challenges paint a different picture.

Natural calamities which caused great damages in many parts of the country did not spare Western Visayas region. In fact, typhoon-related incidences ranked the highest in recorded environmental threats in the region in CY 2022, Lawin patrol reports disclosed.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 6 through its Enforcement Division which manages the reports coming from the Lawin patrollers in the six provinces, namely: Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental, have continuously monitored the environmental threats in the region.

Patrollers use the Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System that helps to eliminate the manual process of encoding field data as it uses SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) and Cyber Tracker applications installed in smart phones. It is the Lawin system that helps the DENR 6 patrollers to identify forest and biodiversity threats and paves the way for the Department to work with various local government units to implement interventions in order to address the threats monitored in their respective areas.

Of the thirteen environmental threats in the region’s forestlands, typhoon-related threat ranked first with 155 occurences. It was followed by hut or house or illegal infrastructures with 32; landslides and mudslides with 27; cutting of trees with 24; slash-and-burn (kaingin) farming with 16; hunting with 15; annual and perennial farming with 13; garbage with 11; charcoal with 8; fire and, pests and diseases, both with 5 occurences; and, logging trail and mining and quarrying, both with 1 occurrence each.

Aside from typhoon-related threat which is a force majeure and requires no further actions, the rest of the threats which the DENR 6’s Lawin patrollers have documented were given stern warning. Notwithstanding the legal principle: “ignorance of the law excuses no one”, the DENR 6 Lawin patrol teams had been keen, not only in given warnings, but also in educating folks in upland communities.

Upon threat identification, Lawin patrollers make responses during and after patrol activity are done. During patrol, the team would first document, educate, warn and if the situation so warrants, destroy and dismantle illegal structures. They also engaged in apprehension, arrest and pursuit of violators. Moreover, if needed, filing of case against environmental crime would take its course.

“The constant presence of our Lawin Patrollers is already a deterrence to illegal activities, it may not be 100% but by being on site and visible, we can say that indeed we are serious in the implementation of ENR laws, rules and regulation. Also our Lawin patrollers are good information and education communicators. While patrolling, they also talk to the members of the community about the importance of conservation, management and protection of the natural resources,” said Forester June Melissa C. Garol, Enforcement Division Chief of DENR 6.

 A total of 9,156.91 kilometers had been patrolled in the region in CY 2022, with the Community ENR Office (CENRO) Bago City and Provincial ENRO Aklan topping the list of accomplishment. CENRO Bago City patrolled 1,217 km., and PENRO Aklan with 1,135 km. Their excellent performance were due to the big number of volunteers from LGUs and the hired forest protection officers to augment the DENR in its ENR related activities which include Lawin patrol.

 “Our forestlands are treasure trove of the many things we need to exist – the oxygen, clean water, food, and medicine – apart from the aesthetics they possessed that continue to inspire us so we enjoy life. We are grateful to our Lawin patrollers for the untiring efforts they exert in guarding our forestlands, even risking their own lives in the process,” said DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Livino B. Duran.