THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it is hoping to remove illegal occupants from over 100 protected areas.

“We have taken for granted these protected areas. The perennial problem of illegal occupants is the reason why these areas are polluted and destroyed,” Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said in a statement.

Republic Act No. 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 added 94 areas to the list of locations under special government protection, bringing the number of such sites to 107.

Public lands within these protected areas are classified as national parks under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

He said the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape will be one of the priority sites.

The department said it is planning on private security personnel to turn away illegal occupants and may tap the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police for overall security.

The law prohibits “occupying or dwelling in any public land within a protected area without clearance from the concerned Protected Area Management Board.”

Violators are liable for fines of between P200,000 and P1 million or imprisonment of one to six years.

“We are expediting the complete demarcation of all legislated protected areas to set their final boundaries, along with the creation of the Protected Area Management Office or PAMO,” Director Natividad Y. Bernardino of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau said.

Ms. Bernardino said a current program on Protected Area Development and Management covers measures to conserve biodiversity within and adjacent to protected areas. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson