A NEW bureau to oversee compliance with environmental law, for which legislation has been filed in the House, has drawn expressions of support from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that an Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) will work with law enforcement agencies and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as government prosecutors.

According to Undersecretary Jim O. Sampulna, the EPEB will address the gap in the enforcing environmental laws, while also allowing the DENR to focus on conservation and protection.

The DENR recently evicted illegal occupants within the Upper Marikina Watershed and Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary in Baras, Rizal.

Mr. Sampulna, along with Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force Executive Director Nilo B. Tamoria and other government officials, led the demolition of illegal structures and barbed wire fences in the area.

“Occupying or dwelling in any public land within a protected area without clearance from the concerned Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) is strictly prohibited under Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act of 2018,” Mr. Sampulna said.

Mr. Sampulna added that the law also bans the construction and maintenance of any structure, fence, or enclosure within a protected area without securing clearance from the PAMB and necessary permit from the DENR.

“Violators of these ENIPAS law provisions could face a fine ranging from P200,000 to P1 million or imprisonment from one year but not more than six years, or both,” Mr. Sampulna said.

DENR said protected areas such as the Upper Marikina watershed and Masungi Wildlife Sanctuary are classified as environmentally critical areas and are seen as major sources of biodiversity.

Disturbances to such areas threatened flora, fauna, and water resources which could affect the food and water supply.

Mr. Sampulna said House Bill No. 6973, which backs the creation of EPEB, was filed by Antique Rep. Loren B. Legarda in June. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave