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DOJ assigns fiscals to handle environment cases

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - December 23, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has tapped special prosecutors to handle cases involving violations of environmental laws in critical areas.

In an office order, the DOJ designated 10 prosecutors to specifically handle environmental laws, upon the request of environmental advocacy group Oceana Philippines.

The members of the team are Benguet Provincial Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamarra; Assistant State Prosecutors Liezel Aquiatan, Tofel Austria, Alejandro Daguiso, Katheryn May Penaco-Rojas, Ferdinand Fernandez, Karla Cabel and Charlie Guhit; and Prosecution Attorney Monica Liwag Ma. Richell Oliva.

The prosecutors are tasked to provide assistance to park rangers and other law enforcers in protected areas, especially in the filing of cases and gathering of evidence.

In creating the team, the DOJ cited Section 19 of Republic Act 7586, the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (NIPAS) Act of 1992, which provides that “the Department of Justice shall designate special prosecutors to prosecute violations of laws, rules and regulations in protected areas.”

The NIPAS Act defines protected areas as “remarkable areas and biologically important public lands that are habitats of rare and endangered species of plants and animals, biogeographic zones and related ecosystems, whether terrestrial, wetland or marine.”

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has listed 240 protected areas in the country, including those designated as World Heritage Sites (Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park), Ramsar Sites (Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Naujan Lake National Park, and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park), Transboundary Protected Areas (Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary) and the ASEAN Heritage Parks (Mt. Apo Natural Park, Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, and Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park).

DENR Central Visayas Regional Director Isabelo Montejo welcomed the development, saying the availability of special prosecutors would speed up the litigation of environment cases.

 “This will truly advance the enforcement of the laws and regulations for protected areas. We have many issues in the environment, which need to be focused on. The special prosecutors for protected areas will be more familiar with the laws governing environment protection, which will greatly help in the resolution of cases,” Montejo said.

Oceana Philippines also lauded the DOJ for responding to its call.

“Our protected areas deserve special attention. Right now, there is still that huge need for our stakeholders to be fully conscious of the shared responsibility to protect these ecologically significant places, including seascapes,” said Oceana vice president lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos.

“These new special prosecutors will strengthen compliance of relevant laws in protected areas and hopefully deter commission of prohibited acts in our oceans and land. Oceana is looking forward to forging partnerships with the Department of Justice, our environment and fisheries agencies, and other stakeholders in promoting awareness and understanding of the urgent need to protect our vulnerable ecosystems and threatened habitats of various species of flora and fauna, which will help in the handling of environmental cases,” she added.

ACIRC AGUSAN MARSH WILDLIFE SANCTUARY ALEJANDRO DAGUISO AREAS ASSISTANT STATE PROSECUTORS LIEZEL AQUIATAN BENGUET PROVINCIAL PROSECUTOR GILMARIE FE PACAMARRA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OCEANA PHILIPPINES PARK PROSECUTORS PROTECTED
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