Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has hailed the launch of a new anti-corruption program that is expected to provide a big boost to the DENR’s campaign against environmental crimes.

Last Sept. 3, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and 49 state agencies including the DENR led the launch of the "Project Kasangga: Aksyon Kontra Korapsyon," creating anti-corruption coordinating councils (ACCC) within government offices and one at a national level chaired by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

The program is a holistic way of stamping out corruption in all levels of government and complements a task force led by the Department of Justice, according to the PACC.

The ACCCs will act as department-level committees to validate corruption reports and forward them to the national ACCC.

Cimatu said the initiative is especially vital in its mandate to combat environmental crimes as "corruption at the DENR unmistakably results in environmental crimes whose detrimental consequences can last for generations in terms of individual health, public safety and economy."

"I prefer standing trees to apprehended illegally-cut ones which is why my marching order is to strengthen prevention of environmental crimes like illegal logging," Cimatu pointed out.

"While our emphasis is on prevention, enforcement and detection approach should likewise play an important role through the creation of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) which will spearhead government’s efforts to bolster certainty of punishment," he added.

The proposed EPEB consolidates all enforcement functions and will institutionalize enforcement systems and strategies based on best practices and using the most advanced and reliable technologies.

"Project Kasangga has further highlighted the role of environmental law enforcers as key actors in fighting corruption," Cimatu said, noting that the project underscores the urgency for the establishment of the EPEB as its passage into law is being sponsored both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Two bills creating the EPEB have been filed at the Senate. These are Senate Bill Numbers 1878 and 1959 filed by Senators Nancy Binay and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., respectively.

At the House of Representatives, House Committee on Government Reorganization adopted House Bill (HB) 6973 filed by Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda.

The House panel has likewise agreed to consolidate three other EPEB bills into a substitute bill, namely HB 7873 filed by Deputy Speaker and South Cotabato Rep. Ferdinand L. Hernandez; HB 7670 filed by Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba; and HB 8028 filed by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund "LRay” Villafuerte. ###