Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has lauded the reactivation of the office of the Environmental Ombudsman, stressing the move has given the citizens’ environmental rights a more prominent position in the Aquino administration’s crusade against graft and corruption.
“By resurrecting the office of the Environmental Ombudsman, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has made, in one stroke, protecting the citizens’ environmental rights a centerpiece of her agency’s mission,” Paje said.
Reiterating his gratitude for the Ombudsman’s “display of political will to enforce environmental laws,” Paje said the reactivation of an environmental team by Morales “has taken the next step further in building institutional support within the bureaucracy to DENR’s initiatives for environmental justice.”
Around 26 lawyers of the Ombudsman’s Office have been put together to act as investigators and prosecutors pursuant to an existing memorandum of agreement between the Office of the Ombudsman and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) forged in 2004 to monitor government officials’ compliance in implementing the country’s environmental laws and policies.
“This move is indeed a huge step in this Administration’s strides to transform the nation’s attitude toward environmental citizenship,” said Paje.
Under the agreement, the Environmental Ombudsman will closely keep an eye on citizens' complaints on violations of environmental laws while the IBP shall act as the receiver of complaints and reports on violations of environmental laws.
In the event that the concerned public officials refuse or fail to take appropriate action, IBP will forward the matter to the Environmental Ombudsman. The IBP will also provide active legal assistance to the Ombudsman’s prosecutors.
The agreement also provides a link-up by the Ombudsman team and IBP with other government law enforcement agencies, such as the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice.
Paje noted that the clout of the Environmental Ombudsman likewise covers elected and appointed public officials suspected of being remiss in their duties resulting in the violation of environmental laws or non-implementation of Philippine environmental standards.
“Backed with a stronger legal muscle and shield, this is a welcome help especially to our DENR field workers as they are now better positioned to take a stronger stand against antagonistic interests at work in the field,” Paje stressed.