By Anna Gabriela A. Mogato, Reporter

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) will form a separate bureau to enforce wildlife and environmental laws as ordered by Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim said while they develop the policies on environmental laws, these are implemented by regional offices and other enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard.

“[Since] we have a secretary who is really into enforcement, he actually wants to institutionalize the enforcement function of the department. Initially, he set up a task force in Metro Manila, but he decided to expand it to the regional offices,” she added.

“But he now has an instruction to set up a bureau that will focus mainly on enforcement against environmental crimes which includes wildlife. So, among the challenges on wildlife enforcement is also following the apprehension, that there should be charges as well. Cases are filed and they (violators) are prosecuted.”

Ms. Lim said that, at present, whenever the government manages to confiscate illegally traded animals, these are sometimes returned to the traders due to lack of proper implementation or knowledge of laws. This is despite the country having special prosecutors and courts that hold trials on environment-related crimes.

Prior to the proposition to set up another bureau for enforcement, the DENR with its partner enforcement agencies had formed the interagency enforcement team Philippine Operation Group for Illegal Trade of Ivory during the Aquino administration.

During former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez’s term, the interagency body National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force was formed to deal with environmental and wildlife trafficking.

This is not the first time Mr. Cimatu has ordered the formation of an enforcement group or task force, following the initiative of his predecessor, Ms. Lopez.

Mr. Cimatu recently formed task groups to go after illegal small-scale miners in Benguet which he plans to also spread out nationwide, as well as separate groups to monitor solid and water waste in different regions after the crackdown on environmental violators in Boracay.

Aside from enforcement, Ms. Lim said the BMB will focus on awareness providing alternative livelihood to the communities dependent on the illegal wildlife trade. Another plan of the bureau is to educate these communities on how to foster a more sustainable environmental trade.

“[We should] give these violators different enterprises so that they have others than just unsustainable collection. We can probably teach them how to sustainably utilize our wildlife resources,” Ms. Lim said.

“Or, if there are other wildlife resources that can be introduced in the area that can help the communities, that can veer them away from illegal collection. That’s another activity, another program that we are undertaking right now.”