Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has paid tribute to the frontliners of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) who are continuously serving the public amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“My heartfelt appreciation goes to our frontliners who painstakingly continued to physically report for work under tremendous stress and danger despite knowing that they are exposing themselves to the threats of the pandemic,” Cimatu said in his year-end message to the DENR community.

As in any other organization, Cimatu said COVID-19 has changed the way people work at the DENR with work-from-home and skeleton workforce becoming the new norms.

Cimatu disclosed that a total of 50 DENR “skeleton” workers across the country have been infected with COVID-19 and two forestry officers were killed in the line of duty since the start of the lockdown in March.

Despite the health threats posed by COVID-19 and other hazards at work, Cimatu said the DENR workers still proved they could “measure up to the challenges, if not exceed them.”

The DENR chief said he knew how it feels to be a frontliner having been assigned by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to oversee government efforts to contain the COVID-19 infections in Cebu City last June.

“I was at the front seat of saving human lives and I realized that my mission to arrest the spread of COVID infection in Cebu was no different from the task our people at the DENR are faced with, especially our frontliners.” Cimatu said.

While he was glad that the DENR recorded zero casualty from COVID-19, Cimatu lamented the deaths of two forest protection officers, who were part of the agency’s pandemic skeleton workforce.

He hailed the slain DENR workers as “heroic examples of those who had responded to and exceeded the challenges posed by the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo Jr. called on DENR workers “to make a difference no matter how simple they were.”

Adobo added that the pandemic has encouraged every one in the DENR to “serve as light for each other at all times.”

So far, the DENR Central Office in Quezon City had been put on two complete lockdowns on June 25 and from July 9 to 22 immediately after confirmation of infection among 11 of its skeleton workforce. ###