DENR aims to improve environmental law enforcement using technology

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will maximize the use of latest technologies to ensure strict implementation of environmental laws and regulations.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the use of state-of-the-art technology in environmental law enforcement would certainly augment the capability of DENR field offices in monitoring illegal activities, such as illegal logging, illicit wildlife trade and irresponsible mining.

“We can only sustain the management of our country’s natural resources if we strictly enforce environmental laws, and we need all the help we can get in this. Technology will empower our implementers in enforcing these laws,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu cited the case of Boracay, where the DENR used ground penetrating radars (GPRs) to detect illegal pipes buried along the island’s famous white sand beach. 

According to Cimatu, the illegal pipes which discharge untreated wastewater contributed to high coliform levels in Boracay waters, one of the reasons why the resort island was closed to tourists for six months starting April 26 to pave the way for the much-needed rehabilitation.

The DENR has since been regularly checking Boracay’s water quality from various monitoring stations located at strategic points along the coastline.

The same technology is being applied along Manila Bay, which is also undergoing rehabilitation in compliance with a writ of continuing mandamus issued by the Supreme Court to the DENR and 11 other government agencies. 

Cimatu said the DENR also started using the Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System in monitoring areas covered by the Enhanced National Greening Program or E-NGP, a flagship reforestation program of the government that aims to plant 138 million seedlings on more than 140,000 hectares of degraded forests this year.

The Lawin system helps rangers protect the country’s forests from timber poachers amid an existing nationwide logging ban in natural and residual forests.

“Aside from preserving grown trees, we do not want the fruits of the E-NGP to go to waste as this program is one of our main strategies in mitigating climate change and helping communities adapt to its adverse impacts,” Cimatu pointed out.

Cimatu said the DENR also plans to use a new technology that would help improve the monitoring of other sites, such as wetlands, coasts, and protected areas undergoing rehabilitation or development. 

He said the DENR will also keep an eye on the compliance of mining companies with existing environmental laws and regulations.

This is consistent with what he called “a proposed policy reinventing mining” that would benefit more people without compromising the environment and natural resources in the country. 

The proposed policy includes “progressive rehabilitation,” which would require miners to expose only the maximum area allowed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau for mining activities within a prescribed period of time, and rehabilitate the said area before exposing another one. ###

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