DENR welcomes Senate bill on creation of environmental protection, enforcement bureau

Published October 19, 2020, 3:11 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Secretary Roy Cimatu is more optimistic about the creation of an enforcement bureau within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), as a bill seeking for its creation has been filed in the Senate.

Senator Nancy Binay has filed on Oct. 12 a counterpart bill in the Senate creating the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) under the DENR.

“We extend our gratitude to Senator Binay for advancing the EPEB bill in the Senate, thus increasing the chances of the draft law making it into legislation,” Cimatu said.

He also expressed gratitude to Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, who, on June 15, filed House Bill 6973 establishing the EPEB under the DENR. The measure is now pending with the House Committees on Government Reorganization and on Natural Resources.

Since last year, Cimatu has been advocating for the creation of an enforcement arm within the DENR following the successive killings of environment workers, mostly foresters, while performing their duties of protecting the environment.

He admitted that the agency still lacked teeth in enforcing the country’s environmental laws, while many DENR frontline workers remained at risk.

He said that by having a permanent enforcement bureau, the DENR will be more effective in stopping environmental crimes, such as illegal logging and smuggling of wildlife species. 

Cimatu then appealed to the Senate and the House of Representatives to act “swiftly and decisively” on the two separate EPEB bills now pending in both chambers of Congress.

“Any delay comes at the risk of losing more precious lives of those within our ranks at the DENR and those of our partners in civil society (who are) at the frontlines fighting environmental criminals,” he pointed out.

Nilo Tamoria, executive director of the DENR’s Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force, said the passage of the proposed EPEB Act is “equally crucial” in the implementation of the country’s development plan agenda amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The establishment of the EPEB squarely addresses the requirements under the new normal setting as highlighted in the ‘We Recover as One’ report prepared by a technical working group of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases,” Tamoria explained.

According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic “is a manifestation of the chronic effects of human activity on wildlife resources and habitats at an unprecedented rate, resurfacing in more damaging impacts on environmental and public health.

“It calls for a combination of strengthened, scaled up, and innovative actions and solutions to curb the elevated environmental, climate, and health risks,” the report added.