The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has assured the public that illegal occupation of lands within protected areas will not be tolerated.

This comes after the agency successfully evicted illegal occupants inside the Upper Marikina Watershed and Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary in Baras town, Rizal province last July 30.

DENR Undersecretary Jim Sampulna, along with Rizal Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Isidro Mercado and Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force Executive Director Nilo Tamoria, led the demolition of illegal structures and barbed wire fences built by members of the Guardians International 19th Quarters Inc.

“Occupying or dwelling in any public land within a protected area without clearance from the concerned Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) is strictly prohibited under Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act of 2018,” Sampulna pointed out.

He said the law also prohibits construction and maintenance of any structure, fence or enclosure within a protected area without prior clearance from the PAMB and permit from the DENR.

“Violators of these ENIPAS law provisions could face a fine ranging from P200,000 to P1 million or imprisonment from one year but not more than six years, or both,” Sampulna warned.

Protected areas like the Upper Marikina Watershed and Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary are environmentally critical areas and are main sources of biodiversity, maintaining the ecosystem and providing natural processes of the land.

Disturbances to such conservation areas threaten flora and fauna and water resources, which could affect the food and water supply in the country.

“This is the reason why Secretary Roy A. Cimatu is pushing for the establishment of an Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) within the DENR,” Sampulna said.

The Secretary, he said, wants a line bureau dedicated to pursue strict implementation of environmental laws, policies, rules and regulations, wherein law enforcement agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, and government prosecutors will be involved.

Sampulna said that House Bill 6973, which seeks the creation of EPEB, was already filed by Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda with the House of Representatives last month.

“The creation of EPEB will help fill the gap in the implementation of environmental laws and it will allow the DENR to focus both on environmental conservation and protection,” he said. #