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FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE REYNATO S. PUNO, PARTICIPANTS, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO THE LAUNCHING OF THE "SENR DISTINGUISHED LECTURE SERIES" AND "INAUGURAL LECTURE: CHALLENGE OF ADDRESSING ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE."

THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES HAS RECENTLY UNDERGONE INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS AND ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGES. IT SHIFTED TO A "UNITY OF COMMAND" STRUCTURE IN THE FIELD OFFICES AND THE PRIORITIZED LAW ENFORCEMENT ON ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES.

THROUGH DEPARTMENT ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER 2018-18, CHANGES IN THE FUNCTIONS OF REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS, STAFF AND LINE BUREAU DIRECTORS, CENROS AND PENROS HAVE ENABLED A MORE COORDINATED AND RESPONSIVE REGIONAL OPERATIONS.

THEY DID NOT ONLY STRENGTHEN THE COORDINATION OF DENR WITH THE MINES AND GEOSCIENCES BUREAU AND ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT BUREAU AT THE REGIONAL AND LOWEST LEVELS OF FIELD OPERATIONS, THEY ALSO ENABLED AN EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS IN THOSE AREAS - SUCH AS IN CURBING ILLEGAL LOGGING, ILLEGAL MINING, POACHING AND ILLEGAL TRADE OF WILDLIFE, AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION.

ENFORCEMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS HAS ALSO BECOME THE PRIORITY IN THE REGIONS AND COMMUNITIES. THE DEPARTMENT'S ENFORCEMENT AND LEGAL TEAMS PLAY CRUCIAL ROLES IN ATTAINING EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS.

THIS HAS BEEN EVIDENT AS THE TEAMS HAVE MADE CONSIDERABLE IMPACT ON CURBING ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION IN BORACAY AND, NOW, IN MANILA BAY - THE SAME ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS AND ISSUES THAT FRAMED THE DRAFTING OF THE SUPREME COURT'S SEMINAL RULES OF PROCEDURE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CASES UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF OUR INAUGURAL LECTURER, CHIEF JUSTICE REYNATO S. PUNO.

TODAY, WE ARE LAUNCHING THE SENR DISTINGUISHED LECTURE SERIES, WHICH WAS DESIGNED TO ENHANCE MORE OR EVEN BRING TO A HIGHER LEVEL THE STRATEGIES AND INTERVENTIONS FOR EFFECTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ENFORCEMENT. THE LECTURE SERIES STIMULATES CRITICAL AND INNOVATIVE THINKING, OF WHICH PARTICIPANTS OTHER THOSE IN THE REGIONS, LIKE LAW ENFORCERS, OFFICIALS AND STAFF FROM DIFFERENT OFFICES WITHIN THE DENR, AND ATTACHED AGENCIES, CAN BE GUIDED.

AND FOR THIS, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE RETIRED SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE REYNATO S. PUNO FOR GRACIOUSLY SHARING HIS EXCEPTIONAL IDEAS ON THE TOPIC OF THE INAUGURAL LECTURE - THE CHALLENGE OF ADDRESSING ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE. THIS TOPIC HAS PARTICULAR EMPHASIS ON THE RULES OF PROCEDURES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CASES, WHICH WAS HIS SPECIAL PROJECT DURING HIS INCUMBENCY AS SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE. IT IS WORTHY TO NOTE THAT THE KEY LEGAL PRINCIPLES ESTABLISHED IN THE RULES WERE HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY THE MANILA BAY CASE, SUCH AS THE ONE ON THE WRIT OF CONTINUING MANDAMUS.

THE SCOPE AND CONTEXT OF THE INAUGURAL LECTURE IS THE EXPLORATION OF THE INTEROPERABILITY OF THE THREE GENERATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS: THE CLEAN AND HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT BEING OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE; THE INTERSECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND EQUITABLE ACCESS TO NATURAL RESOURCES; AND THE DEVELOPMENT INTERVENTIONS NEEDED BY THE PEOPLE TO PROSPER. THESE IN ESSENCE, MAKE UP THE WHOLE GAMUT OF THE 2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT'S 17 GOALS, WHICH RANGES FROM ADDRESSING POVERTY TO ADDRESSING LIFE ON LAND AND ON WATER.

BEING A DISTINGUISHED LEGAL SCHOLAR, WHO HAS A MASTERY OF THE FOREGOING CONCEPTS, IT IS A GREAT HONOR FOR THE ENTIRE DEPARTMENT TO HAVE THE RETIRED SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE AS THE INAUGURAL LECTURER FOR THE SENR DISTINGUISHED LECTURE SERIES
AGAIN, THANK YOU CHIEF JUSTICE REYNATO S. PUNO; MY APPRECIATION ALSO GOES TO ALL OF YOU WHO ARE HERE FOR THE LAUNCHING OF THE DISTINGUISHED LECTURE SERIES.

MA BUHAY TAYONG LAHAT.