Members of the Joint Regional Multi-Sectoral Forest Protection Committee (RMFPC) and the Regional Enforcement Task Group (RETG) CALABARZON discussed the newly created Environmental Law Enforcement and Protection Service (ELEPS) during its Second Quarter Meeting conducted last June 29, 2021, at the DENR CALABARZON Conference Hall, Brgy. Mayapa, Calamba City, Laguna.

In behalf of DENR Undersecretary for Enforcement, Benito T. de Leon, Assistant Secretary for Enforcement Atty. Daniel Darius M. Nicer provided context on the enforcement operations of DENR during the said RMFPC and RETG meeting. As a prelude to the establishment of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau, the DENR created the ELEPS through an Administrative Order signed by DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu during the 34th DENR Anniversary on June 10, 2021.

ASec. Nicer, who is also the Head of the Manila Bay Task Force Operation Center, introduced the new strategies in their enforcement operations under the operational guidelines of ELEPS. “Ang enforcement na iniisip natin ay ‘yong naghahabol tayo ng truck na may troso at nakikipagbakbakan…babaguhin na natin ang ganitong pananaw sa sistema ng enforcement…uunahin natin at bibigyan ng importansya ang information gathering on the state of the environment in our areas of jurisdiction and then from there, act accordingly to stop any ongoing damage and to prevent further damage to our environment... this envisions a system na hindi lang naka-rely sa ating mga kamay at katawan na nakasubo sa labanan. Gagamit tayo ng mga sistema at teknolohiya na maayos, sistematiko, at ligtas para sa atin. We will prioritize prevention of environmental destruction over prosecution on environmental offenses…ang focus natin ay sa source, hindi sa distribution point”, he said.

In strengthening the intelligence operations of the Department, ASec Nicer mentioned, “Alam natin na ang ating mga kalaban sa kalikasan ay nagtatago sa dilim at kasukalan ng mga gubat sa mga disoras na mga pagkakataon. Doon natin sila hahanapin. We will overcome their primary defense – their inconspicuousness and inaccessibility of our primary resources. Pagkahuli, we will do a quick response to avoid further damage to the environment and the lives of people.”  

Through ELEPS, environmental protection is ensured without compromising the safety of the enforcement officers. “It will be good for the environment, and it will be safer for us as enforcers. Hangga’t maaari ayaw ko nang may makitang nasasawi or injured sa ating mga enforcers”, ASec Nicer reiterated. From 2017-2021, a total of 13 DENR Environmental Defenders were killed in the line of duty, not to mention other enforcers in other line agencies.

Further updates on the creation of the ELEPS were provided by the DENR CALABARZON Regional Executive Director Nilo. B. Tamoria. He shared the vision and direction of ELEPS, the status of the proposed EPEB Bill, existing DENR Enforcement Organizational Structure, rationale on the creation of ELEPS as EPEB Provisional to institutionalize, mainstream, and strengthen the environmental law enforcement of DENR, and the proposed ELEPS organizational structure.

In 2019, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu appealed for the creation of Enforcement Bureau to ensure the security of the people in enforcing environmental laws. RED Tamoria shared that to date, the EPEB Bill was already filed at the congress with 13 co-sponsors – 4 at the 18th Congress and 2 at the senate. While waiting for the passage of the Bill, ELEPS, as an interim enforcement arm, was formed through a Department Administrative Order to have a dedicated office in the Department who will guide the Regional and Field Offices in all enforcement aspects. RED Tamoria clarified that once the EPEB Bill is enacted, the ELEPS shall be aligned with the provisions as stated therein.

Meanwhile, DENR CALABARZON Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services Alfredo Palencia recognized the contribution of the RMFPC in monitoring environment-related activities in the field. He said, “malaki po ang tulong na naibibigay sa departamento ng RMFPC para sa ganon ay ‘yong mga reports ng illegal activities at pagkasira ng ating kalikasan ay mapigilan natin… alam naman natin na hindi kaya ng DENR alone kundi dapat ay sama-sama tayo”.

Topics during the activity were the (1) Status of plans and programs of RMFPC discussed by RMFPC Chair Manuel A. Beloso, (2) Battle plan against illegal logging activities in Quezon Province tackled by Quezon PENR Officer Ramil Limpiada, (3) Status of Quarry Operations in CALABARZON shared by Engr. Krizia Ann Alberto of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and (4) Status of Sanitary Landfill and Open Dumpsite in the Region as presented by EMS Zarah Mae Aday of the Environmental Management Bureau. It was hosted by the Enforcement Division.

RMFPC CALABARZON is chaired by Quezon PG-ENRO Manuel A. Beloso and co-chaired by DENR CALABARZON Regional Executive Director Nilo B. Tamoria. Members include the Regional Directors of the Department of Finance 4A, Department of Public Works and Highways 4A, Philippine Coconut Authority, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Department of Trade and Industry 4A, Department of Science and Technology 4A, Department of Labor and Employment 4A, Department of the Interior and Local Government 4A, Philippine National Police PRO4, Department of Health 4A, and the Director of Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystem-UPLB, the President of Southern Luzon State University, the Group Commander of Tactical Operations Group4, the 202nd Infantry Brigade Commander 2nd Infantry Division, Philippine Army, the Commander of Naval Force for Southern Luzon, Philippine Navy, the Southern Luzon Commander of Philippine Coast Guard, the PG-ENROs of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal, and Mr. Guillermo O. Formaran III, the President of Camp Nakar Press Corp.

On the other hand, RETG is Chaired by DENR CALABARZON RED Tamoria and the Vice Chair is ARDTS Palencia. Members of the group include the Environmental Management Bureau 4A Regional Director Noemi Paranada, Mines and Geoscience Bureau 4A Regional Director Dondi Sarmiento, Cavite PENRO Ronita Unlayao, Laguna PENRO Ronillo Salac, Batangas PENRO Noel Recillo, Rizal PENRO Ernesto Diso, and Quezon PENRO Ramil Limpiada, DENR 4A Enforcement Division Chief Oliver Viado, and RMFPC Chair Manuel Beloso. ###