In light of the Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has mobilized skeletal workforces in all DENR offices in Luzon for quick response law enforcement and regulation.

“We expect forest and wildlife crimes because without a doubt, there will be those who will take advantage of the lockdown situation,” said Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

The ECQ ordered by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has put constraints on the operation of forest and wildlife protection field teams.

Cimatu added that the large number of military and police personnel now stationed in urban areas could be a window for environmental criminals to exploit the situation especially in the provinces. He assured, however, that “DENR’s quick response teams are ready to seize groups or individuals who will engage in such illegal activities.”

In a Memorandum issued on March 17, Cimatu allowed the deployment of skeletal workforces in DENR offices in Luzon that render vital and urgent (or) time-bound services such as those that involve “quick-response law enforcement and regulatory functions including monitoring of transport of forest products and wildlife trafficking at airport and ports.”

These quick response workforces shall function “until such time that sea and air inbound and outbound transportation has been suspended.”

The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officers (PENROs) and Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers (CENROs) of DENR regional offices are the frontliners in enforcing environmental laws including the monitoring of the country’s forest and wildlife.

“Our country’s biodiversity is known as one of the richest in the world, with abundant forests, varied wildlife, and endangered and threatened species. It is our utmost responsibility to conserve our environment and natural resources especially in this time of crisis,” said Cimatu.

The move of the DENR chief led to the confiscation of a total of 880.28 board feet (bd. ft.) of amugis, lauan and banuyo lumber from Sitio Anduyanan and Sitio San Pablo in Brgy. Alipaoy, Paluan town in Occidental Mindoro by the Monitoring and Enforcement Section of the CENRO in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. These premium species of trees are used for construction and furniture-making.

In Romblon province, 266 bd. ft. of apitong lumber were seized from Brgy. España, San Fernando and 120 bd. ft. of lauan were retrieved by DENR employees from Sibuyan after these were abandoned in Brgy. Mabini, Occidental Mindoro in separate operations on March 23 and 24.

On the other hand, the Forest Product Monitoring Station of CENRO Taytay, Palawan recovered 10 sacks of charcoal of mangrove species in Brgy. Aberawan, El Nido on March 16. The group also seized 10 sacks of charcoal of forest tree species abandoned at Sitio Talogon, Brgy. Bagong-bayan in Taytay on March 21.
Also in Palawan, a quick response workforce from the Conservation and Development Section of CENRO-Puerto Princesa rescued a stranded adult Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) commonly known as pawikan in the coastline of Puerto Princesa on March 20. It was released the following day after the species recovered from injuries believed to be caused by a boat propeller.

Cimatu called on the public to report any sighting of wildlife poaching or tree cutting and trading through the DENR Hotline 8888, mobile #s 0917-868-3367 and 0917-885-3367 or the DENR official social media accounts in Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.###