Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu is confident Malacañang would certify as urgent a proposed measure creating an enforcement bureau within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

This comes after two bills have been filed both in the House of Representatives and the Senate seeking the establishment of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB).

"I am confident that the House and the Senate are behind the EPEB bill and that Malacanang will certify the same as urgent,” Cimatu said.

The DENR chief maintained that a permanent enforcement bureau will “help save the lives of our frontliners who are in the trenches of fighting environmental crimes.”

Cimatu is expected to formally ask for the President’s certification at the meeting of the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation, and Disaster Risk Reduction (CCAM-DRR) this month.

The President’s certification would allow the Congress to immediately pass the proposed law on third and final reading.

Cimatu reiterated his appeal that further delay in the establishment of the EPEB “is putting the lives of our environmental frontliners at greater risks.”

“Regrettably, yet another one of our frontliners was killed last Wednesday (October 28) in Agusan Del Sur during an anti-illegal logging operation in Bunawan town,” Cimatu lamented.

DENR Forest Guard Marianito Rufano, 51, was killed by armed men on October 28 while leading a two-day retrieval operation of some 12,911 board feet of abandoned premium Lauan and Toog timber seized from an illegal logging activity at Sitio Kiatsan, Barangay Bunawan Brook in Bunawan town.

On June 15, Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda filed House Bill (HB) 6973 establishing the EPEB under the DENR, while Senator Nancy Binay filed a counterpart measure—Senate Bill 1878—last October 12.

According to DENR-Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force (EPETF) Executive Director Nilo Tamoria, support for the EPEB bill has been “gaining ground in Congress.”

“HB 6973 now has four additional co-authors—Ang Probinsyano Partylist Representative Alfred delos Santos, North Cotabato 3rd District Representative Pingping Tejada, Cagayan Province 1st District Representative Ramon Nolasco Jr. and Ilocos Norte, 2nd District Representative Angelo Barba. Capiz 2nd District Representative Fred Castro has also manifested his plan to co-sponsor the bill,” Tamoria disclosed.

EPETF records show that in 2019 alone, five DENR workers were killed in the line believed to be connected to DENR’s law enforcement operations while one was killed in May 2020. ###