Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has signed an administrative order for the establishment of the Environmental Law Enforcement and Protection Service (ELEPS) of the DENR that will focus on strengthening environmental law enforcement in the country.

The creation of ELEPS was spearheaded and the successor of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force (EPETF) under the direction of the Secretary and will serve as an interim service while the DENR awaits the approval of the proposed Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) bill that was filed in the Senate and House of Representatives.

"We have a growing number of fallen environmental heroes. This is how serious we do our jobs here at DENR, but I hope and pray that no more lives will be lost because of defending our environment," Cimatu said during the DENR's 34th founding anniversary celebration on June 10.

"Our Department has many laws to implement, but we are lacking when it comes to enforcement. While we are waiting for the passage of EPEB, our Secretary has allowed to craft this order to install an enforcement service for the effective protection of our forests and other natural resources," said DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones.

Under the DENR administrative order, ELEPS will cover "all environmental laws as enumerated in the Supreme Court Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases involving enforcement or violations of environmental and natural resources laws, rules and regulations," such as Terrestrial Laws, Coastal, Marine, and Aquatic Resources Laws, Aerial Law, and other Environment and Natural Resources Laws.

ELEPS was created as a defined authority that will promote effective and strong enforcement of environmental laws, establish coordinative mechanisms, utilize science and technology, and develop highly competent manpower that will encompass existing enforcement units, such as the EPETF, Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife (POGI), and other enforcement task forces of the DENR.

With bigger scope and functions from the EPETF, enforcement units of DENR’s regional offices, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Environmental Management Bureau, Protected Area Management Office, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Offices, and Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices will be under the operational control of ELEPS and its supervising officials.

DENR's bureaus and attached agencies will also maintain close coordination with ELEPS in networking with national and international organizations that address environmental crimes.
ELEPS’ lead team will be from DENR’s Central Office to complement its daily operations.

Among its several functions, ELEPS has end-to-end duties--from the enforcement, stoppage of ongoing violations, arrest, management of confiscated items, investigation, preparation for prosecution of environmental criminals until execution of decisions by the court.

ELEPS will also coordinate with the Department of Justice, the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Bureau of Investigation, and government-owned and controlled organizations to aid in the prevention and fight against environmental crimes.

Cimatu has directed DENR Undersecretary for Enforcement Benito de Leon to provide capacity building and enforcement trainings to enforcement officers. The DENR, however, will not issue firearms to the said officers pending the approval of the EPEB bill.

Through ELEPS, enforcement officers will be able to conduct intelligence operations, issue notices of appearance for investigation, as well as implement Cease and Desist Orders, Closure Orders, and Notices of Violation, and DENR Enforcement Orders for in flagrante violations, among others. ###