DENR Secretary Gina Lopez credited the Department’s string of successes in environmental protection to a “multi-stakeholder approach” that includes not only strict implementation but post-enforcement rehabilitation.
“We involve as many agencies as possible. We do not stop at just going after logging and mining violators. The department goes a step further and creates livelihood opportunities to those displaced by our closures and suspension orders,” Lopez revealed in a message.
The DENR created the National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force (NAECTF) last August 2017 with the mandate of targeting what Lopez termed “environmental offenders.”
NAECTF is a joint effort between the DENR, DOJ, DILG, PNP, AFP, DOLE, DSWD and affected local government units. Its functions include investigation, enforcement, prosecution and rehabilitation.
The task force’s latest operation involved the confiscation of close to 29,000 board feet of illegally-cut logs in Bulacan at the Angat Watershed area last week. Earlier successes mainly in Mindanao netted illegal loggers in Agusan del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Compostela Valley.
“Just as important, we follow the principle that without rehabilitation and economic alternatives, we cannot improve the lives of affected communities and lift them from dependency on extractive activities such as mining,” the DENR chief emphasized.
The DENR ordered the closure of 23 mines and issued “show cause” orders to 75 others last February due to numerous violations of environmental laws.
“In the last two months, the DENR has worked with closed mine communities to find sustainable solutions that balance livelihood and ecological protection. In CARAGA, for instance, we have allocated 4 billion pesos and sought the assistance of 11 line agencies to raise incomes for 30,000 households.”
Lopez dispelled reports that she was not consulting other government agencies.
“We’re working with DOLE and DOT for eco-tourism initiatives. The DSWD is helping with social safety nets. We’re translating our concern for the environment with workable solutions that benefit local communities.”
“Our critics focus on supposed lack of due process. We focus on sustainability and economic upliftment,” Lopez explained.