Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno today led the launching of an endowment fund intended to provide financial assistance to families left behind by employees of the DENR who died in the line duty.

The launching, held on the occasion of the agency’s 25th anniversary, was highlighted by the signing of the Articles of Incorporation of the Alay sa Anak ng Bayani (ALAB) ng Kalikasan Foundation, Inc., which will serve as the administrator of the fund.

Paje and Puno, who accepted to become one of ALAB’s incorporators and trustees, signed the Articles of Incorporation, with Helen Angchangco, wife of the late Audy Angchangco, and Miguel Angelo B. Dirain, eldest son of the late For. Melania Dirain, as witnesses.

Paje expressed certainty of realizing the objectives for the establishment of the endowment fund citing the “high moral ground that Justice Puno occupies in Filipino society”.

“With former Chief Justice Puno in ALAB’s board, there is now more reason to believe that environmental heroism is now being given its rightful recognition in equal degree bestowed upon soldiers and law enforcers who perished in the line of duty,” he said.

For his part, Puno said that he accepted the invitation to join ALAB “without hesitation,” noting that “the list (of slain DENR workers) is getting longer” in that the endowment fund bears directly on the struggle to protect the right to healthy environment “is part of the mother of all rights --- the right to life.”

Saying that the memories of the DENR slain workers will play an integral part in the DENR’s struggle in carrying out its mandate, Puno said that the aspiration to truly immortalize them can only be made “if we see to it that the objective for which they gave up their lives are accomplished by us.”

“Let us remember that they are immortals only until we have accomplished their purposes,” Puno stressed.

According to Paje, the Endowment Fund has, as initial seed money, some PhP314,241.00 which was donated by the Civil Service Commission to the DENR in September last year after it hosted a fund raising campaign through a fun run joined by almost 3,000 registrants.

Aside from the signing of the Articles of Incorporation, the launching was also marked by the laying of the time capsule by Paje and Puno during the groundbreaking rites for the Dambana ng mga Bayani sa Kalikasan or “Heroes Wall” at the Environmental Heroes Park of the DENR. The “Heroes Wall” will measure 18.2 meters in width and 9.01 meters in height.

“We will hold this wall sacred, and to honor our brave employees who have sacrificed their lives for a worthy cause, we will inscribe their names on the wall,” Paje explained.

Per DENR records, a total of 61 employees have died in the line of duty from 1990 to June 2010, and eight during the current administration.