The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be more aggressive in enforcing environmental laws and regulations in 2019 in order to sustain the momentum created by the much lauded rehabilitation of Boracay Island and other accomplishments of the agency last year.

“This year, I hope to send a strong message to environmental offenders and to the public of our seriousness in implementing and enforcing environmental laws, rules and regulations,” Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said during the traditional DENR New Year’s Call held at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

The New Year’s Call is where the Secretary meets with all DENR officials and employees to announce the policy direction for the agency and set the priority programs and projects to be implemented for the rest of the year. The annual gathering also gives the DENR chief the chance to present the agency’s accomplishments in the previous year.

Cimatu described the Boracay rehabilitation, which was carried out by the DENR and other members of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force as the “centerpiece of our 2018 accomplishments.”

“With the eyes of the world upon us, we set forth to do what cynics thought was impossible: to transform a cesspool back to being one of the world’s best beaches and swimming destinations, within a period of only 6 months,” Cimatu said.

He added: “In Boracay, our mettle was put to test. We not only passed that test, but also carried over the momentum to other prime ecotourism destinations like El Nido and Coron in Palawan, Panglao Island in Bohol, and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro.”

Cimatu said the Boracay’s success had spawned demands for replication so the DENR decided to have the rehabilitation of Manila Bay as its “next big target.”

The Manila Bay rehabilitation, he said, calls for a change in approach considering that its water quality has not improved despite a Supreme Court mandamus for its cleanup issued a decade ago.

“We are putting up a Manila Bay command center, we will get the local government units more involved, and we will be more aggressive in enforcing environmental laws, particularly against the dischaege of untreated wastewater into the bay,” Cimatu disclosed.

Apart from the Boracay rehabilitation, Cimatu said the DENR, through the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), was also successful in enforcing the Clean Water Act in other parts of the country in 2018.

The NWRB caused the closure of 486 commercial establishments illegally operating deep wells. It also slapped Pepsi Cola Products Inc. with a hefty fine of P11.8 million for operating 6 deep wells in Muntinlupa City without the necessary permits.

Cimatu also commended the combined forces of the DENR, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Cebu City government in apprehending those responsible in the butcher and sale of more than 100 kilograms of raw meat of endangered green sea turtles.

In closing, Cimatu rallied DENR officials and employees to let the success in Boracay “fuel our spirits in facing the challenges before us in 2019” and keep in mind that their mandate in the agency “transcends our personal needs, wants and interest.”

“In our hands and on our shoulders, lie the future of our nation. In the crucial 11th hour facing climate change and all its chilling effects, we are at a very critical time to make dramatic changes,” Cimatu stressed. #