Press Releases

Secretary Roy A. Cimatu expressed hope the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would receive the P3.036 billion additional funding it needed to bankroll three crucial programs the agency will start to implement next year.

“We are hopeful the budget augmentation will be included in the final version of the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to be passed by Congress—the House of Representatives and the Senate—and signed into law by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Cimatu said.

The proposed funding increase includes P1.2 billion for the Enforcement Bureau; P1.8 billion for the full implementation of the Republic Act No. 11038 or the “Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act of 2018” ; and P36 million for land titling.

During the budget deliberation at the House Appropriations Committee held last September 6, both the Majority and Minority blocs threw their support behind Cimatu’s plans to create an Enforcement Bureau with the assurance that they would push for the augmentation of the DENR budget during the bicameral conference on the 2020 GAB.

He explained that with its own Enforcement Bureau, the DENR could effectively enforce environmental laws and protect its workers who have been the vicious targets of illegal loggers and other environmental criminals.

The environment chief made the appeal a few days after Bienvenido Veguilla Jr., a DENR forest ranger, was brutally killed by suspected illegal loggers in El Nido, Palawan.

The deliberation likewisetackled the need for the additional funds for the full implementation of and the acceleration of land titling and distribution of public lands.

Last Sept. 20, the House approved on third and final reading the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, including the P25.5 billion allocation for the DENR which is 16 percent higher than the P21.96 billion it got for this year.

The Senate had already started its own review of the government’s spending plan for next year and is expected to come up with its own version of the GAB.

“We are hoping that the DENR would get the same extent of support from the senators just like their counterparts in the House when they meet at the bicameral conference committee,” Cimatu said.

“Representatives crossed party lines in casting their support,” Cimatu said, referring to the commitment of support given by House Majority Floor leader Martin Romualdez, House Minority leader Manila 6th District Rep. BienvenidoAbante Jr., and independent opposition Albay 1st District Rep. EdcelLagman.

At the deliberations, Romualdez assured Cimatu of joining “the minority in the proposals to support the department all out” in response to Abante’s assurance of the minority block’s support to the DENR’s appeal to increase its proposed 2020 budget

“Kung hindi pa kayo masyadong Masaya dyan, andito po kami,” Abante said, responding to Cimatu’s appeal on the need to increase the proposed DENR P25.5 budget.

For his part, Lagman said that “the independent minority will join the majority” in pushing for the increase in the DENR’s budget.

“Mr. Chairman. At the proper time, if the Majority in the Committee or at the Plenary would consider a justified augmentation of the proposed budget of the DENR, the independent opposition will join the majority in making this allocation,” Lagman said.

The DENR—through Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones—submitted to Congress the proposed augmentation budget of the agency last Sept. 16.

In a letter addressed to House Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Leones said the DENR would need P1.2 billion for the establishment and initial operation of the proposed Enforcement Bureau in 2020.

Leones said the agency would also need P1.8 billion for the full implementation of E-NIPAS law, and P36 million to fast track the issuance of titles for alienable and disposable public lands.

According to Leones, the creation of an Enforcement Bureau within the DENR is in line with the Duterte administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda, particularly peace and order, as it would enable the department to “fully implement and enforce laws on environment and natural resources (ENR) with full authority to police illegal loggers and ENR violators.”

The DENR official also cited the need for “full logistic support” for the implementation of the E-NIPAS law and the acceleration of public land distribution.

“Still, under the 10-point agenda of the President, to be specific, is to ‘ensure security of land tenure’ to encourage investments and address bottlenecks in land management and titling,” Leones pointed out.

The E-NIPAS law expands NIPAS Act of 1992 to cover broader range of protected areas (PAs) safeguarded under the law. The new law adds 94 more legislated PAs in the country, and bolsters the security of previously declared PAs.

The law allows the DENR to strengthen the management of PAs, which are widely considered essential for biodiversity conservation. PAs are frequently home to irreplaceable and threatened species. ###

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has announced the temporary suspension of all dragon boat race activities in Boracay in the wake of a deadly accident that claimed the lives of seven members of a local-based dragon boat group.

Cimatu, who chairs the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), said that such activities are “postponed for the time being until emergency protocols are thoroughly scrutinized.”

“We are temporarily suspending all dragon boat race activities in Boracay, including practice and training, until we have assessed their practice protocols,” Cimatu said.

All agencies involved in emergency rescue and response are scheduled to meet on Monday, Sept. 30 to conduct a comprehensive assessment of protocols, logistics and resources, and to come up with recommendations to address gaps subject to the approval of the BIATF.

These agencies include the local government of Malay and its Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Tourism, the local dragon boat associations and other water sports associations in the Philippines.

On Sept. 25, seven members of the Boracay Dragon Force died, while 14 others were injured when the boat they were rowing capsized off Boracay Island. The group was then training for an upcoming international competition in Taiwan.

Upon learning of the incident, Cimatu expressed his sympathy to the victims and their families, as he promised that emergency response programs will be strengthened in Boracay to prevent a similar incident in the future.

According to reports, the boat capsized after it was hit by large swells of waves originating from the sudden violent gusts of wind before the dragon boat racers reached the third bay of Tulubhan Beach in Barangay Manocmanoc.

Members of the team were not wearing life vests during that time, while one of the paddlers did not know how to swim, the reports added.

The local government of Malay, Aklan and partner agencies have extended their support to the bereaved families by offering them services, such as financial assistance, stress debriefing, cadaver management, and security. ###

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu hit the ground running Wednesday as the newly appointed chair of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) in answer to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s call to clean the Pasig River.

The environment chief led atechnical inspection of Pasig River and pledged to get rid of informal settlers and go after pollutersof the historic river.

Cimatu was joined in the more than two-hour inspection tour of the river by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Danilo Lim, and officials of the PRRC, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

As they traversed the length of Pasig River from Manila to Makati, Cimatu noted several violations including the three-meter easement from the riverbanks.

"We have the authority to restore the three-meter easement, and MMDA and PRRC are working on this," Cimatu said.

Based on Presidential Decree 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines, banks of rivers and streams and shores of seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban areas are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.

However, MMDA Resolution No. 3, series of 1996 adopts the uniform 10-meter easement from the existing shoreline, banks or streams along the Pasig River.

According to Cimatu, the 10 meter easement along the Pasig River is subject to expropriation.

The environment chief also saw some 1,000 informal settler families (ISFs) near Del Pan Bridge and vowed to relocate them.

"Relocation is our priority. We will take immediate action. We will remove and relocate the ISFs in coordination with the National Housing Authority,” he said.

Cimatu said that during his recent meeting with local government officials, including barangay captains, he warned them of administrative and criminal charges should they allow relocated ISFs to return to their previous settlements.

The DENR chief said that outfalls discharging wastewater into the river will be checked to monitor water quality, as well as illegal discharges.

“The moment we see a private outfall whose discharge is not according to standards, we will issue them a Notice of Violation (NOV),” Cimatu warned.

He noted that establishments which were earlier issued NOV have been made to pay fines for every day that they did not comply. “We will not let this pass. We will bring these to the Pollution Adjudication Board,” he added.

Cimatu also said the regulated and proper use of the river will be observed, referring to the barges docked along the river that deliver raw materials to the factories, and to the makeshift junkshops along the riverbanks.

“We have to move them out because they contribute to the low quality of the water in the river,” said Cimatu.

The DENR chief said that immediate action will be taken on the large amount of water hyacinths in the river.

MMDA Chair Lim said a 600-meter trash trap has been installed to prevent water hyacinths to reach Pasig River from Laguna Lake but this was destroyed by the continuous rains, thus will have to be replaced.

Cimatu also stressed the need to clean the esteros simultaneously and continuously to prevent the garbage from flowing to the river and then to Manila Bay.

The Pasig River tour gave Cimatu a picture of the water body’s physical condition, as well as the structures and establishments in the riverbanks that affect the river’s water quality.

On August 28, President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 90 transferring the PRRC Chairmanship from the PRRC to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with hopes to revive the river with Cimatu at the helm.

The President recently expressed dismay over the river’s water quality describing it as “uncleanable” because the lack of zoning caused factories and houses along the river to discharge their waste to it.

Last year, Cimatu delivered on the President’s directive to clean Boracay in six months. Early this year, he was tasked to spearhead the ongoing rehabilitation of Manila Bay which has gained ground with the cleanup of esteros, the resettlement of informal settler families (ISF) and the improving water quality readings in major outfalls.

Pasig River is approximately 27 kilometers long and connects Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay. The main Pasig River passes through the cities of Taguig, Pasig, Makati, Mandaluyong and Manila, and the municipality of Taytay in Rizal.

The river system has four major tributaries—Marikina, Pateros-Taguig, Napindan and San Juan—and 43 minor tributaries mostly located in Manila. ###

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said emergency response programs will be strengthened in Boracay Island to prevent another tragedy similar to the death of members of the Boracay Dragon Team.

“The Boracay Inter-agency Task Force (BIATF) is saddened by this tragedy and sympathizes with the families of all casualties. The task force will work with the local government units and other authorities to extend assistance to all affected by this unfortunate incident,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu assured that the BIATF Field Office “will work on a comprehensive emergency response program and shall recommend it to the principals of the task force.”

The BIATF is chaired by Cimatu and co-chaired by Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

“The program will consider the provision of necessary protocols, logistics, and resources for an effective emergency rescue and response in the island,” Cimatu said.

The local municipality of Malay in Aklan also responded to the aid of the victims and their families by activating their Incident Command System, with the departments and agencies providing their services such as cadaver management from the Municipal Health Office; family assistance and stress debriefing from the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office and Red Cross; and security from the Philippine Coast Guard and the maritime arm of the Philippine National Police.

A boat carrying 20 paddlers and one steersman of the Boracay Dragon Team overturned amid rowing from the Bulabog Beach to the White Beach of Boracay Island on the morning of Wednesday, September 25, 2019.

Seven paddlers were declared dead on arrival (DOA) after being taken to the hospital, namely: Mark Vincent Navarete, Omar Arcob, Maricel Tan, Yohan Tan, Richel Montoya, Antonette Supranes, and John Vincent Natividad.

Another paddler, Von Navarossa, was brought to Kalibo Hospital.

The survivors were Mark Baccay, Jaylord Violanda, Robel Licerio, Marc Sabado, Oathleen Sabado, Kenneth Bandalan, Julia Kurbaniizova, Maggie Xie, Xhen Autona, Lani Ordas, Janice Lumbo, Jao Buenaventura, and Edwin Paradas.

According to reports, the Boracay Dragon Boat Team was training for weeks at Bulabog Beach in Barangay Balabag but transferred to the White Beach because the winds changed from southwest monsoon (habagat) to northeast monsoon (amihan) three days ago.

While paddling, the team encountered a sudden violent gust of wind before they reached the third bay of Tulubhan Beach in SitioTulubhan in Manocmanoc, Boracay Island. Waves started to swell and then hit the boat. Water filled the boat before it capsized.

The group has been practicing for weeks in the famous tourist destination for an international competition before the accident. ###

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to identify and arrest those behind the killing of an informant of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Rizal town in Nueva Ecija province recently.

“I hope the PNP will look deeply into this case and bring those perpetrators to justice, so that we can say that the death of yet another environmental defender has not been in vain,” Cimatu said, as he strongly condemned the killing of Gaudencio Arana, a long-time DENR informant currently assigned at the office of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) in Muñoz town.

Arana, 56, was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding assailants on the night of Sept. 11.

According to CENRO Florencio Lalu, Arana was one of those “responsible in giving accurate information regarding the illegal activities within Pantabangan and Rizal, Nueva Ecija areas leading to the apprehension of several illegally sourced wood products, conveyances and chainsaws.”

This, Lalu said, “could have earned the ire of unscrupulous individuals conducting illegal activities within these municipalities.”

Arana was the second environmental worker killed in just one week this month.

On Sept. 4, suspected illegal loggers stabbed DENR forest ranger BienvenidoVeguilla Jr. to death using a jungle bolo in El Nido, Palawan.Five suspects—DexterSumalague, WelmerJuancho, Felman Flores, Ricardo Fulgencio, and RuelFulgencio— have already been arrested and charged accordingly for murder and violation of Presidential Decree No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.

Cimatu had earlier vowed to do everything in his power to protect DENR workers from “fearless, cunning and greedy” individuals who destroy the environment for their own selfish interests.

Appearing at a budget hearing in the House of Representatives, Cimatu asked lawmakers to pass a law that would create an Enforcement Bureau in the DENR in order for the agency to effectively stop environmental crimes, such as illegal logging and smuggling of wildlife species.

The former Armed Forces chief also asked Congress to come up with a legislation authorizing forest rangers to carry firearms to protect themselves against illegal logging syndicates and other environmental criminals.

With the proposed creation of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau, forest rangers shall be authorized to carry firearms in the conduct of their daily patrol.

In the meantime, Cimatu said forest rangers should be provided police security whenever they conduct patrol. ###