Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna has assured Malacañang that illegal occupants within protected areas will face legal sanctions if they continue to violate environmental laws.

“We assure His Excellency President Rodrigo Duterte, that the DENR has been consistent in identifying culprits operating in protected areas, investigating on violations, and filing charges against the violators in Masungi and Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL),” Sampulna said.

The DENR chief said that in 2021, the DENR, in coordination with the National Bureau of Investigation-Environmental Crimes Division (NBI-EnCD) and the UMRBPL-Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) personnel, has filed cases against the illegal occupants.

Through the Rizal Provincial ENR office, DENR-Environmental Law Enforcement and Protection Service, NBI-EnCD, and other enforcement agencies, Sampulna pointed out that joint operations and inquest proceedings and apprehension activities were also conducted within the protected area.

“From 2021 to February 2022, 16 cases were filed against violators through NBI operations conducted in Barangays San Jose, San Juan, and Pintong Bukawe in Antipolo City and Barangay Pinugay in Baras, Rizal, wherein four convictions were won on Monday, April 25,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DENR-CALABARZON reported that from August 2018 to March 2022, 96 show cause orders and 43 cease-and-desist orders were issued because of illegal construction, occupation, and/or conduct of business without clearance from the Protected Area Management Board.

Establishment of illegal structures within protected areas violates Section 20 (n) and (o) of Republic Act (RA) 7586, as amended by RA 11038 or the National Integrated Protected Area Systems (NIPAS) Act of 2018, and Section 81, formerly Section 71, of Presidential Decree 705 or the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.

On the other hand, Sampulna clarified that the three companies issued with mineral production sharing agreements or MPSA in the area have not been operational since 2004.

One MPSA will expire in 2023 and the other two will expire in 2024, he said.

The DENR is also currently reviewing the legality of the perpetual land trust given by the agency to Masungi Georeserve Foundation through a memorandum of agreement with former Secretary Gina Lopez.

The review is being conducted in consideration of certain provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and NIPAS Act. #