October 18, 2020
BINAY FILES BILL CREATING ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND ENFORCEMENT BUREAU
In a bid to protect environment officers, particularly forest enforcers, who are continually on the receiving end of acts of violence and impunity, Sen. Nancy Binay filed Senate Bill No. 1878 creating the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The bureau would strengthen the DENR’s capability to uphold its mandate.
The senator filed the bill after DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu appealed to the Senate to legislate the creation of the bureau, which is seen to help the agency in enforcing its protection function, during the environment agency’s budget deliberation last week.
“Nakakabahala ang tumataas na kaso ng karahasan na dinaranas ng ating mga environment officers. The case of Forester Danilo Pascasio II is only the latest in a string of acts of impunity committed against those tasked with protecting our forests.
I believe that this proposed measure would help protect our officers as they protect the environment, that’s why I am urging my colleagues to pass this bill at the soonest possible time,” Binay said.
Pascasio, a forest management specialist based in Aurora, is currently hospitalized after being attacked by an illegal logger that he helped apprehend during an anti-illegal timber poaching operation.
According to the Global Witness, an international environmental watchdog, 46 environment defenders had been killed in the country in 2019. The Philippines was also ranked as the “most dangerous country” for environmental defenders in 2018.
Binay said it was high-time the government seriously tackle the protection of the country’s natural resources.
“Malaking bahagi ng function ng DENR ang environmental protection, ngunit hindi nila magampanan dahil sa iba’t ibang factors, pangunahin na ang kawalan ng kapasidad. We need a dedicated workforce to enforce our environmental laws–hindi na sapat ang scattergun approach. Our enforcers are outgunned, outmaneuvered, and out-resourced by the entities that violate our laws,” said the senator.
If enacted, the EPEB would consolidate and harmonize all enforcement functions performed by the DENR’s different bureaus and attached agencies.
An Environmental and Natural Resources Law Enforcement Academy will also be established to train ENR law enforcers.
The Academy will provide enforcers with basic and advanced training courses on environmental law enforcement. A skills enhancement program will also be included to regularly update the knowledge and upgrade the capability of ENR law enforcers.
Trained ENR law enforcers will be allowed to carry issued firearms for their field operations.
The proposed measure would also mandate the setting up of a forensics laboratory to ensure that evidence gathered for prosecuting environmental law violators is science-based.
As well, the DENR would be granted the power to issue Cease and Desist Orders (CDOs), summarily eject any person, and issue abatement orders and the removal, dismantling, or demolition of any illegal structures from a prohibited area without a Judicial Order.
The law would also give the authority to the EPEB Director-General or a duly authorized representative to issue Notice of Violation and Seizure Order.
“This legislation will help address the constraints that tie our environmental enforcers’ hands and prevent them from fulfilling their mandate. We will not be able to protect our rich resources unless we equip the DENR with the proper tools and authority to do so,” Binay said.