Calamba City, Laguna - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) CALABARZON, through its Enforcement Division headed by For. Annabelle Barquilla, and in coordination with the Environmental Law Enforcement and Protection Services (ELEPS) conducted a three-day consultation, cascading, and action planning of relevant ENR Laws for the operationalization of DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2021-28, or the creation of ELEPS, which shall be implemented from Central Office down to CENRO Level.

Participants of the activity are technical staff from Enforcement Divisions, Unit, and Service from all field offices in the Region, as well as the Provincial Environmental Management Officers, and representatives from Mines and Geosciences Bureau. During the three-day activity, the PENR and CENR Offices also presented their accomplishments and initiatives in line with the implementation of forest protection, an action plan is also currently being developed to harmonize the operations of the respective offices and further intensify the implementation of various ENR laws.

“ENR Laws should be harmonized to realize the full capacity of its implementation”, according to Laguna PENR Officer Eriberto Saños. He also emphasized that a significant decrease in ENR law violations should be one of the priorities of the Region. “Ang pagpapatupad po natin ng mga batas ay dapat naka angkla doon sa apat na sinasabi ng ating mandato at ng buong Pilipinas. Dapat ito po ay makatao, makakalikasan, maka-Diyos, at makabansa at ang panalo po dito ay tiyak na tayo, ang ating inang bayan, ang mamamayan na ating pinaglilingkuran, gayundin ang ating inang kalikasan”, PENRO Saños reiterated.

Meanwhile, Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services Alfredo Palencia stated that all field offices shall develop and strictly follow a Standard Operating Procedure for the operationalization of ENR laws. Assistant Regional Director for Special Concerns Jose Elmer Bascos also added that the operationalization of the ELEPS shall be a way to strengthen the environmental protection nationwide.

DENR CALABARZON Regional Executive Nilo Tamoria put a strong emphasis on enforcement. Due to close proximity in Manila and the issues faced by CALABARZON, it has been the pilot region for the capacity building as well as the module development for ELEPS. “Mula sa experiences ng frontlines at field implementers ay hahalaw tayo kung papaano mas mapapaigi at mapapahusay ang mandato ng enforcement”, he added.

Further, ELEPS OIC Director Ret. BGen. Reuel Sorilla shared his experiences on being part of enforcement agencies. Being an environmental enforcer poses a great danger. He added that the implementation of ELEPS offers a sense of security to our environmental enforcers.

The ELEPS does not only focus on forestry, it encompasses all environmental law enforcement including air, water, etc. “We have a responsibility to perform and there is an attendant accountability that goes with it. We cannot just simply sit down and let it be”, he reminded the participants.

Then DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has pushed for the creation of an Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) to ensure the safety and security of environmental law enforcers. The creation of ELEPS, pursuant to DAO 2021-28, serves as an interim enforcement arm while awaiting the passage of the EPEB Bill. Acting DENR Secretary Jim Sampulna has also shown full support for intensifying the enforcement in the Agency.

Moreover, the creation of ELEPS aims to (1) promote efficient and effective enforcement of environmental laws, rules and regulations, (2) strengthen and professionalize enforcement of environmental laws with the use of advanced science and technology, and (3) professionalize enforcement units in the DENR and develop highly competent manpower.

A total of 13 DENR Environmental Defenders were killed in the line of duty from 2017-2021. According to Global Witness, the Philippines has been labeled as one of the deadliest countries for land and environmental defenders in Asia for eight (8) consecutive years.###