(Delivered by Undersecretary for Attached Agencies and Chief of Staff Rodolfo C. Garcia)

 

(Salutations)

ON BEHALF OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, // I WELCOME ALL OF YOU // TO THE 4TH NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT SUMMIT. //

THE SUMMIT THEME -- // SUSTAINING INTER-AGENCY COLLABORATIONS FOR INTENSIFIED ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT // TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT AMIDST PANDEMIC -- // BESPEAKS OF THE NEED THAT EMERGED IN THE INTERVENING YEARS, // WHILE ALSO ADDRESSING THE NEW SITUATION BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. //

THE INTERVENING YEARS SAW VIOLATORS OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS EVOLVING, // MAINLY TO AVOID DETECTION. // FROM BORACAY ISLAND TO THE COASTAL AREAS OF MANILA BAY, // THEY USE UNDERGROUND PIPES TO FUNNEL UNTREATED WASTEWATER INTO THE SEA. //

ANOTHER EXAMPLE IS THE USE OF CYBERSPACE TO TRANSACT ILLEGAL TRADING OF WILDLIFE. //

DURING THE CURRENT PANDEMIC, // RESTRICTIONS ON INTERZONAL MOVEMENTS AND NUMEROUS CHECKPOINTS // HAS DRIVEN VIOLATORS TO BECOME MORE CREATIVE. // IF WE CAN USE DRONES WITH CAMERAS TO MONITOR FORESTS, // THE COASTS AND THE SEAS, // SO TOO CAN THE ENEMY. //
THEY MAY ALSO USE ELECTRONIC PAYMENTS, // TO STAY SAFE FROM MARKED MONEY. // AND IF DESPERATE ENOUGH, // THE ENEMY CAN USE FIREARMS AGAINST UNARMED ENFORCERS OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS. //

THESE DEVELOPMENTS PRESENT US WITH MANY CHALLENGES, // TO WHICH WE MUST RESPOND COHESIVELY, // AS AN UNBROKEN AND UNBREAKABLE FRONT. // THIS IS HOW CRUCIAL THIS NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT SUMMIT IS. //

A FEW DECADES AGO, // THERE WERE NOT SO MANY ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS TO ENFORCE. // BUT SINCE 1990, // THE LIST BEGAN TO GROW, // IN QUICK SUCCESSION, // FROM THE TOXIC SUBSTANCES AND HAZARDOUS AND NUCLEAR WASTES ACT OF 1990, // TO THE EXPANDED NATIONAL INTEGRATED PROTECTED AREAS SYSTEM ACT OF 2018. //

IN BETWEEN THESE WERE MANY LAWS THAT INCLUDE THE MINING ACT, // THE CLEAN AIR ACT, // THE ECOLOGICAL SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT ACT, // THE WILDLIFE RESOURCES CONSERVATION AND PROTECTION ACT, // THE CLEAN WATER ACT, // AND THE CLIMATE CHANGE ACT. //

THESE, // IN ADDITION TO OLDER MANAGEMENT ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS, // MADE IT NECESSARY FOR THE SUPREME COURT TO PROMULGATE IN 2010 // ITS RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CASES. //

IN ADDITION, // THE PHILIPPINES IS A PARTY TO INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL CONVENTIONS ON A BROAD RANGE OF CONCERNS, // INCLUDING BIO-SAFETY, // THE OZONE LAYER, // GENETIC RESOURCES, // PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS, // WETLANDS OF INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE, // AND TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES OF WILD FAUNA AND FLORA. //

SO YOU SEE, // WE HAVE A LOT OF GROUND TO COVER -- // FROM RIDGE TO REEF, // AND EVEN TO THE OPEN SEAS. //

NOTWITHSTANDING RESULTS WE CAN BE PROUD OF, // LET ME MENTION A FEW OF OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT: //

• IN ILLEGAL LOGGING, // WE NEUTRALIZED HOTSPOTS IN 19 MUNICIPALITIES IN 8 PROVINCES IN LUZON AND MINDANAO. // WE MADE 923 APPREHENSIONS THAT RESULTED IN THE SEIZURE OF 721,580 BOARD FEET OF LOGS AND LUMBER, // 1,444 SACKS OF CHARCOAL, // AND 400 IMPLEMENTS AND CONVEYANCES. //

• OUR 3,542 LAWIN PATROLLERS CONDUCTED 53,040 KILOMETERS OF FOREST PATROLS, // IN WHICH THEY ADDRESSED 80% OF THE 3,367 THREATS THAT WERE OBSERVED. //

• IN SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT, // WE WERE ABLE TO CLOSE ALL 335 OPEN DUMPSITES NATIONWIDE – // A FEAT THAT 3 PREVIOUS PRESIDENTS FAILED TO CARRY OUT. //
• IN REHABILITATING BORACAY ISLAND, // WE FILED IN COURT 218 CASES AGAINST ILLEGAL OCCUPANTS, // AND IDENTIFIED 68 ESTABLISHMENTS THAT WERE NOT COMPLIANT WITH THE 25 + 5 EASEMENT. //

BUT WE DO HAVE LIMITATIONS. // THE DENR, // BY ITSELF, // CANNOT ENFORCE ALL ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS ACROSS OUR ARCHIPELAGO. // THE CHALLENGE REQUIRES A WHOLE-OF-GOVERNMENT RESPONSE, // AS WELL AS THE COOPERATION OF STAKEHOLDERS OUTSIDE THE GOVERNMENT, // FROM HOST COMMUNITIES AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR, // TO OUR FRIENDS ABROAD. //

THAT IS WHY I AM DELIGHTED THAT AMONG THE PARTICIPANTS IN THIS SUMMIT // ARE THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK, // THE UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, // THE EUROPEAN UNION, // AND THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE ON DRUGS AND CRIME. //

IN RECENT YEARS, // THE DENR HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTING ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS QUITE SUCCESSFULLY, // THANKS TO THE COOPERATION OF OTHER AGENCIES. // THE MOST RECENT EXAMPLE OF THIS WAS THE CONFISCATION LATE LAST MONTH // OF HEAVY EQUIPMENT USED TO MINE AND TRANSPORT THE VOLCANIC ROCK ANDESITE // FROM AN ILLEGAL QUARRY IN LIAN, BATANGAS. //

THE SURVEILLANCE AND SEIZURE WERE CARRIED OUT // BY JOINT ELEMENTS OF THE DENR’S ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PROTECTION SERVICE, // THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION’S ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME DIVISION, // THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, // AND THE MINES AND GEO-SCIENCES BUREAU. //

EARLIER, // COOPERATIONS BETWEEN OUR THEN NEWLY-FORMED ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PROTECTION SERVICE WITH THE NBI // ALSO LED TO THE SEIZURE OF 18 KILOGRAMS OF AGARWOOD FROM ILLEGAL TRADERS; // THE ILLEGAL AGARWOOD TRADE // INVOLVES THE INDISCRIMINATE CUTTING OF THE THREATENED SPECIES OF PLANTS LOCALLY KNOWN AS LANETE AND LAPNISAN. //

AS ENFORCERS ON THE GROUND, // WE SEE THAT SOME OF OUR ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS ARE NO LONGER EFFECTIVE AS DETERRENTS. // THE FINES FOR LITTERING UNDER THE ECOLOGICAL SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT ACT, // FOR EXAMPLE, // ARE TOO LIGHT COMPARED TO INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS, // SO THAT VIOLATORS MAY FIND IT MORE PROFITABLE // TO JUST DUMP A LOAD OF SOLID WASTES FROM A GARBAGE TRUCK INTO A RIVER, // INSTEAD OF HAULING IT TO A SANITARY LANDFILL, // BECAUSE THE FINE IS A MERE 300 TO 1,000 PESOS. //

IN SINGAPORE, // ONE CAN GET FINED 2,000 SINGAPORE DOLLARS -- // THAT’S AROUND 74,000 PESOS -- // FOR THE FIRST OFFENSE, // SGD $4,000 FOR THE SECOND, // AND SUBSEQUENTLY UP TO SGD $10,000, // EVEN IF THE THING DROPPED IS JUST A CIGARETTE BUTT OR A PIECE OF TISSUE PAPER; // BUT IF WASTE IS DUMPED FROM A VEHICLE, // THE FINE IS SGD $50,000 AND/OR IMPRISONMENT OF UP TO A YEAR, // WHILE THE FINE GETS DOUBLED FOR THE 2ND OFFENSE. //

WHAT MORE ABOUT OUR REVISED FORESTRY CODE, // WHICH IS NOW OVER 4 DECADES OLD, // WHERE THE FINES ARE AS LOW AS 100 PESOS? //

CLEARLY, // SOME ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS NEED TO BE AMENDED. // WHAT WE SHOULD FOCUS ON RIGHT NOW, // HOWEVER, // IS THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAWS AS THEY ARE PRESENTLY WRITTEN. //

THAT SAID, // WE SHOULD NONETHELESS CONTINUE TO VIGOROUSLY SUPPORT PENDING BILLS // ON THE CREATION IN THE DENR OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND ENFORCEMENT BUREAU // AND ON AMENDMENTS TO THE WILDLIFE ACT. //

THE MONTH-OLD ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PROTECTION SERVICE OF THE DENR OPERATES UNARMED. // WE DO NOT WANT ITS PERSONNEL TO BE ADDED TO THE GROWING LIST OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEROES // WHO WERE KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY BY WELL-ARMED CRIMINALS. //

IF THIS SERVICE CAN GET UPGRADED BY LAW // INTO THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND ENFORCEMENT BUREAU, // LICENSED TO BEAR ARMS, // IT CAN PERFORM ITS HAZARDOUS MISSION WITH GREATER SAFETY, // CONFIDENCE, // AUTHORITY AND EFFECTIVENESS. //

AS TO THE WILDLIFE RESOURCES CONSERVATION AND PROTECTION ACT OF 2001, // AMENDING IT IS LONG OVERDUE. //

OUR WILDLIFE ACT OF 2001 DID CRIMINALIZE SOME FORMS OF WILDLIFE TRADING. // HOWEVER, // THAT DID NOT STOP ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADING FROM GROWING IN SCALE AND SOPHISTICATION INTO A 50-BILLION-PESOS-A-YEAR INDUSTRY. //

THE DENR HAS THUS BEEN PUSHING SINCE 2017 // TO GET THE WILDLIFE ACT AMENDED. //

BILLS ARE NOW PENDING IN CONGRESS TO STRENGTHEN ENFORCEMENT OF THE WILDLIFE ACT, // WITH THE INCLUSION OF ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION AND A MANDATE TO MANAGE, // CONTROL, // AND EVEN ERADICATE INVASIVE ALIEN SPECIES, // IF NECESSARY. //

THE LAW AS AMENDED WILL AUTHORIZE WILDLIFE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS // TO CARRY GOVERNMENT FIREARMS IN THE CONDUCT OF THEIR DUTIES. // IT WILL ALSO MAKE EACH WILDLIFE SPECIES INVOLVED CONSTITUTE A SEPARATE COUNT OF VIOLATION OF THE LAW. //

THUS, // AN ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADER CAUGHT WITH 5 DIFFERENT WILDLIFE SPECIES // WILL FACE 5 COUNTS OF VIOLATIONS, // INSTEAD OF JUST 1 COUNT. // THE DEGREE OF ENDANGERMENT OF A SPECIES AND THE NUMBER OF SPECIMENS INVOLVED // CAN ALSO TRIGGER THE IMPOSITION OF THE MAXIMUM PENALTY; // THE MORE ENDANGERED THE SPECIES, // THE FEWER SPECIMENS WILL BE NEEDED TO MERIT THE MAXIMUM PENALTY. //

FOR OUR WAY FORWARD, // WHILE WE AWAIT THE CREATION OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND ENFORCEMENT BUREAU, // WE ARE DIRECTING THE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PROTECTION SERVICE // TO ASSIST THE REGIONAL OFFICES IN NEUTRALIZING ILLEGAL LOGGING HOTSPOTS // AND CURBING ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES. //

WE WILL ALSO SPEED UP ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION PROCEEDINGS FOR APPREHENDED FOREST PRODUCTS. // WE WILL REVIEW THE CHAINSAW ACT OF 2002, // TO DEPRIVE ILLEGAL LOGGERS OF THE PRIMARY TOOL OF THEIR TRADE. //

WE WILL CONTINUE IMPROVING THE MANILA BAY’S WATER QUALITY, // AND CONDUCT A CARRYING CAPACITY STUDY ON MANILA BAY’S “DOLOMITE BEACH” // IN PREPARATION FOR ITS EVENTUAL OPENING TO TOURISTS AND LOCAL RESIDENTS. //

FOR BORACAY ISLAND, // TO PRESERVE THE GAINS WE MADE IN ITS REHABILITATION, // WE ARE SUPPORTING THE PASSAGE OF A LAW // CREATING THE REGULATORY BORACAY ISLAND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, // AND WILL CLOSELY MONITOR ACTIVITIES THERE TO ENSURE STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS. //

ON CLEAN AIR, // WE WILL REVISIT THE AIR QUALITY ACTION PLAN AND FRAMEWORK, // TO IDENTIFY POLICY GAPS AND TO STRENGTHEN IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CLEAN AIR ACT. // ON CLEAN WATER, // WE WILL CLEAN AND REHABILITATE DEGRADED RIVERS AND OTHER WATER BODIES, // STARTING WITH THOSE IN HIGHLY URBANIZED CITIES. //

WE MUST REPLICATE IN THE REGIONS THE IMPROVEMENTS WE MADE IN WATER QUALITY OF BORACAY ISLAND AND MANILA BAY, // IN TERMS OF BIOLOGICAL OXYGEN DEMAND AND FECAL COLIFORM LEVELS. //

IN THE AREA OF RESPONSIBLE MINING, // WE WILL CONTINUE TO BE PROACTIVE AND AGGRESSIVE // IN MONITORING THE COMPLIANCE OF MINING COMPANIES WITH ENVIRONMENTAL RULES AND REGULATIONS // TO ENSURE THE SAFETY AND WELL-BEING OF HOST AND SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES. //

TOGETHER, // LET US STAY VIGILANT, // ASSERTIVE AND COHESIVE // AS STEWARDS AND GUARDIANS OF THE ENVIRONMENT. //

ON THIS NOTE, // WITH THE QUALITY OF OUR ENVIRONMENTAL FUTURE AT STAKE, // I URGE ALL OF THE PARTICIPANTS IN THIS SUMMIT // TO CONTRIBUTE THEIR UTMOST FOR ITS SUCCESS. //

MARAMING SALAMAT PO, // AT MABUHAY TAYONG LAHAT! //