THE ENVIRONMENT chief has ordered the creation of a transitional team that will focus on enforcing environment protection laws while the proposed legislation creating a new agency for that purpose is pending.

“Our department has many laws to implement, but we are lacking when it comes to enforcement,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones said in a statement on Sunday.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu recently signed an administrative order creating the Environmental Law Enforcement and Protection Service (ELEPS), which will serve as an interim body while Congress deliberated on the proposed Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) bill.

“While we are waiting for the passage of EPEB, our secretary has allowed to craft this order to install an enforcement service for the effective protection of our forests and other natural resources,” Mr. Leones said.

The ELEPS will handle matters related to the Supreme Court’s Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases involving enforcement or violations of environmental and natural resource laws.

This includes terrestrial, coastal, marine, aquatic resources, and aerial systems, among others.

The ELEPS is also in charge of developing “highly competent manpower” for existing enforcement units, including the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force, Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife, and other enforcement task groups.

“Through ELEPS, enforcement officers will be able to conduct intelligence operations, issue notices of appearance for investigation, as well as implement Cease and Desist Orders, Closure Orders, and Notices of Violation, and DENR Enforcement Orders for in flagrante violations, among others,” the DENR said.

The new DENR team will coordinate with the Justice department, police, military, National Bureau of Investigation, and other government-owned entities to combat environmental crimes. — Angelica Y. Yang