Involve stakeholders, include econ rehab – Lopez

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez credited the Department’s string of successes in environmental protection to a “multi-stakeholder approach” that includes not only strict implementation but post-enforcement rehabilitation.

“We involve as many agencies as possible. We do not stop at just going after logging and mining violators. The department goes a step further and creates livelihood opportunities to those displaced by our closures and suspension orders,” Lopez revealed in a message.

The DENR created the National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force (NAECTF) last August 2017 with the mandate of targeting what Lopez termed “environmental offenders.”

NAECTF is a joint effort between the DENR, DOJ, DILG, PNP, AFP, DOLE, DSWD and affected local government units. Its functions include investigation, enforcement, prosecution and rehabilitation.

The task force’s latest operation involved the confiscation of close to 29,000 board feet of illegally-cut logs in Bulacan at the Angat Watershed area last week. Earlier successes mainly in Mindanao netted illegal loggers in Agusan del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Compostela Valley.

“Just as important, we follow the principle that without rehabilitation and economic alternatives, we cannot improve the lives of affected communities and lift them from dependency on extractive activities such as mining,” the DENR chief emphasized.

The DENR ordered the closure of 23 mines, while75 mining agreements were given show-cause orders last February.

“In the last two months, the DENR has worked with closed mine communities to find sustainable solutions that balance livelihood and ecological protection. In CARAGA, for instance, we have allocated 4 billion pesos and sought the assistance of 11 line agencies to raise incomes for 30,000 households.”

Lopez dispelled reports that she was not consulting other government agencies.

“We’re working with DOLE and DOT for eco-tourism initiatives. The DSWD is helping with social safety nets. We’re translating our concern for the environment with workable solutions that benefit local communities.” “

“Our critics focus on supposed lack of due process. We focus on sustainability and economic upliftment,” Lopez explained. ### 

DENR: Mining companies furnished with audit reports

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) takes exception to newspaper reports that the “mining audit reports were being kept by Secretary Gina Lopez to herself and a handful of her consultants”.

DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Atty. Maria Paz G. Luna clarified the reports and the respective show-cause orders were immediately provided to all 41 affected mining firms.

"Beginning October up to November last year, each mining firm was sent a copy of the individual report through registered mail, informing them of the findings and recommendations of the audit team," said Luna, adding that attached to the report was the show-cause order.

She added that in the cover letter, the mining firms were likewise told that any explanation and/or comment to the said report should be submitted to the Office of the Secretary within seven (7) days from receipt of the report.

"As proof of their receipt, all 41 responded to the report which then became one of the basis of the evaluation and decision to either close or suspend their operations."

Luna stressed that the audit reports are public records, and everyone can get a copy as long as they follow the procedure in the DENR Freedom of Information Manual, citing media and the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability as among those given out copies of the mining audit report.

According to Luna, the printed copies of the reports are available at the Legal Office of the DENR.

Meanwhile, reports and recommendations of the Technical Review Committee are available at the DENR website: ### 

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