Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatuexpressed support for policies that will guarantee increased public awareness on forest and natural resources conservation, sustainable forest management and climate change.

This developed as Cimatu said measures to boost the forestry sector are currently being discussed in Congress including House Bill 9088 or the Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) bill.

“The approved version of SFM Bill or House Bill No. 9088, highlights the institutionalization of participatory development and management through forest management units,” Cimatu said during the opening of the National Convention of the Society of Filipino Foresters, Inc. (SFFI) in Legaspi City.

In his Keynote Speech read by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) OIC-Assistant Secretary for Staff Bureaus Ricardo Calderon, Cimatu underscored that the SFM bill will immensely revitalize and liberalize the forestry sector.

The environment chief said the DENR will continue to partner with the public and private sectors to create and implement policies and programs for the conservation and sustainable utilization of existing resources and rehabilitation of degraded resources.

“In the meantime, I plan to build on what we currently have and continue to come up with environmentally-sound, economically viable, and socially-responsible policies to further enhance the forestry sector,”Cimatu added.

He said the protection and maintenance of at least eight (8) million hectares of vegetated areas in the country, especially those in the Sierra Madre and Cordillera mountain ranges in the main island of Luzon and in Mindanao, remain a big challenge to the DENR.

“We cannot tolerate illegal activities to persist right under our very noses. To protect our natural resources from both natural and man-made degradation, we can only enforce the laws and regulations, which as you all know, have been lauded by the international community” Cimatu said.

The DENR chief proposed looking into watershed-based forest land planning, development and management and the construction of new water harvesting facilities which are needed to curb scarcity of water, citing the water shortage experienced in Metro Manilain March and April, at the height of the summer months.

Cimatu also said that renewable energy resources such as hydro- and biomass-based energy production can be derived from forestlands and could hasten government projects such as the Build, Build, Build program of the Duterte administration which requires double energy production.

Also in the department’s proposed policies are Forest Investment Road Map to encourage private sector investments and the acceleration of the establishment of tree plantations in production forests, and SFM agreements to harmonize various guidelines and streamlining procedures and requirement in the issuance of forest tenure instruments.

In addition, the DENR also recommends a National Forest Monitoring System and Carbon Accounting, Verification, and Certification System to increase private sector investment in forest protection,

With the recent killing of DENR forest ranger, BienvenidoVenguillar Jr. by suspected illegal loggers in El Nido, Palawan, Cimatureiterated his appeal for the creation of an Enforcement Bureau under the DENR.

“The proposed bureau will primarily benefit our foresters who are exposed to various risks and dangers when they perform their tasks on field,” said Cimatu.

He added the bureau “will surely curb not just illegal logging but also the rampant smuggling of wildlife species and other environmental crimes.”

Cimatuchallengedthe foresters and their colleagues from allied professions in the convention to work hand-in-hand with the Department to “collectively work out ways to balance both the regulatory and developmental approaches to environment protection, conservation and economic development.”

Foresters, Cimatu said, are responsible for the proper implementation of the government’s policy on selective logging and total log ban and the preservation of the environment.

Around 2,450 foresters gathered for the three-day National Convention of the Society of Filipino Foresters (SFF) in Legazpi City, Albay.###