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Speech of RD Leonardo R. Sibbaluca on Environmental Paralegal Skills Course
RD Leonardo R. Sibbaluca, CESO III
Environmental Paralegal Skills Course
Ritz Tower De Leyte
September 23, 2016
I always consider this as a privilege every time I am invited by law enforcement agencies, like yourselves, to give a message. It is because, you are a key component if we are to succeed in our mandate for the conservation, management, development and proper use of the country’s environment and natural resources. Without your cooperation and assistance, it would be doubly hard to effectively and efficiently implement our programs and other environmental law enforcement activities. Also, I always take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the countless assistance you extend to us and it is my desire that we continue to solidify our partnership.
On another point, I would like to extend my appreciation to the United States-Department of Justice - International Criminal Investigative Training and Assistance Program (US-DOJ ICITAP) for their unceasing and unwavering support to our government in our effort to further professionalize and hone the skills of our law enforcement agencies. In particular, your indispensable contribution with the cooperation of the PNP Maritime Group have made this activity a huge success. To the US-DOC ICITAP and PNP Maritime Group, thank you and job well done!
And to the selected PNP-Maritime Group Personnel who successfully hurdled this Environmental Paralegal Skills Course, congratulations! Much is expected of you but with this training, I am confident that you will be an invaluable asset in our urgent task to protect our environment.
Indeed, much is expected of you because much is yet to be done. In 2006, during the 6th session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), they agreed on four (4) shared Global Objectives on forest that will provide clear guidance on the future wok of the international agreement on forests. The first of those shared Global Objectives is to “reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide through sustainable forest management (SFM), including protection, restoration, afforestation & reforestation, and increase efforts to prevent forest degradation”. That objective clearly applies to our country and vividly portrays the need for personnel who are into the implementation of environmental law, among others. And this is where you come in – where you are needed and where you can make a real difference. The knowledge which you now have in terms of the proper procedures in the implementation of environmental law will have a positive impact in our over-all effort to address loss of our forest cover through environmental law enforcement activities, particular here in Eastern Visayas.
Allow me to share some facts about the current state of our environment. While in the past few years, there was a recorded decent increase in our reforestation effort, still much is to be desired if we are to totally restore our healthy environment. Generally, there was an alarming deterioration of our forest cover in the past decades. In the Philippine Forest Facts and Figures for 2013, there was a recorded decreasing trend of our forest cover from 1934 to 2010. While we had 17 million hectares of forest cover in 1934, it decreased to 6.461 million hectares in 1987. It would show that there was an average percentage change of our forest cover of -16.7% for that period alone. There was however a sort of a rebound from that dismal decreasing trend in 2003 with a 10.9% forest cover but with a minimal decrease again in 2010 with 4.58%.
In the 2010 forest cover statistics of the Forest Management Bureau (FMB), not a single province in Eastern Visayas region landed among the top 10 which still has a large area of forest cover. On the other hand, not a single province was also listed among bottom provinces in terms of forest cover area. It is a consolation. Meaning, we are between those with better forest cover and those with the least forest cover. In fact, among the provinces with high forest cover density, the province of Eastern Samar is identified as 9th with high density of forest cover with 186,201 hectares or 42.91% density.
This just presupposes that we still have a relatively dense forested area in the region. The challenge, is we have to be more vigilant, if not, more pro-active in our different law enforcement activities to protect and conserve our remaining forest. There is no luxury for any one of us to lay down our guards. There are always sinister elements of our society who will take advantage to fill their pockets through illegal logging, poaching and similar activities once we soften our resolve.
In our region alone, pursuant to the enforcement of E.O. No. 23 which is on the moratorium on the cutting and harvesting in natural and residual forests nationwide, our Regional Enforcement Division and other Field Offices was able to make a total of 98 apprehensions of alleged illegally cut and/or transported lumber and logs from January-September 20 of this year alone. The said apprehension totaled to 136,669.28 board feet of lumber and another 122.05 cu. m. of logs and with an estimated total market value of Php 6,658,913.75. Again, another reminder that this kind of illegal activities continue to proliferate here and other parts of the country.
Let me just emphasize that there is no letting–up in our effort to run after those out to destroy the environment. Our Department, the DENR, under the leadership of Secretary Gina Lopez has created the National Environmental Crimes Task Force composed of different agencies, Philippine National Police (PNP), being one of those agencies. Said task force is directed to go after large-scale environmental offenders, and ensure the full and strict implementation of vital laws and regulations on environmental protection.
That is why, you who have just finished this course from the PNP-Maritime Group is most welcome to take part in this pro-people, pro-development and pro-environment advocacy. Use what you learn in order for us to be able to strengthen our legal offensives against culprits of our environment. Let us make sure that we are able to follow what is required by the law in the apprehension and seizure of illegally obtained and/or transported natural resources. The underlying reason for that is because a proper handling from the apprehension itself, to issuance of apprehension receipts to the preparation of the proper complaint and filing of the appropriate cases is necessary if we are to succeed in making this violators accountable. If we fail here, then it is just as if we gave them the authority to abuse our resources. That, we do not want to happen. They must be stopped and punished. It will serve as a deterrent to others if we are able to penalize those who violate our environmental laws.
Allow me to just point out that your contribution will matter. If we put a stop to illegal utilization of our natural resources, then we will be able to sustain our way of life. Remember that we are on target, if not better, in our effort to reforest our denuded forestland under the National Greening Program (NGP). As of 2015, we were already able to reforest 1.4 million hectares of denuded land out of a target of 1.5 million hectares by end of 2016. This effort resulted 916.8 million seedlings of various species while generating 3.1 million jobs in upland communities. And with NGP, through E.O. 193 extended until 2028, we expect more, if not, all denuded forests fully reforested. Things are in fact, getting better. But to get to that point of being better, it requires all stakeholders to contribute – you, included.
And so, with the zealous effort of all stakeholders for our reforestation program, the strict enforcement of our environmental laws, and violators being held accountable, we expect a greener future for ourselves and for the generations to come. Make your own mark in this undertaking. Do your part. After all, we live on the same planet.
Again, congratulations! Mabuhay kayo at maraming salamat!
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