DENR calls for end to impunity in environmental crimes

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
DENR calls for end to impunity in environmental crimes
In celebration of Earth Day, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu urged the public to stop tolerating environmental abuse and to instead take part in the strict enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has called for an end to impunity in crimes against the environment and for Filipinos to fill the gap in law enforcement, especially those that relate to the protection of resources.

In celebration of Earth Day, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu urged the public to stop tolerating environmental abuse and to instead take part in the strict enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.

“The government needs the direct participation of the citizenry in accelerating reforestation, coastal cleanups, conserving energy and popularizing lifestyles that will enable the country to reduce its carbon footprint and enhance its resilience,” Cimatu said.

“Environmental abuse persists because there are people who allow, if not encourage, irresponsibility to proceed with impunity,” he stressed.

As a case in point, he cited the case of Boracay Island, which President Duterte ordered closed for rehabilitation.

For more than a decade, he said, the DENR had been issuing warnings about the coliform contamination of the island’s waters, caused mainly by domestic and commercial wastes being discharged directly into the sea.

“If we had been warning about Boracay for over a decade now, why were our warnings not heeded? If the Philippines has been celebrating Earth Day since 1990, why do the environmental problems plaguing Boracay and other areas persist?” Cimatu asked.

To prevent further degradation and destruction, he gave assurance that the government would do everything it can to save the world-famous Boracay.

“We will not stop until we make Boracay a livable community. We will make sure Boracay waters will pass the international water quality standards and that solid wastes are properly managed in the area,” Cimatu said.

As the world marked Earth Day, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the President’s move to order an island closure and rehabilitation, which is to be implemented on April 26, is the government’s most evident contribution to saving the planet.

“Today, April 22, we join the rest of the world in observing Earth Day. This year’s observance of Earth Day in the Philippines has stricken a resonant chord with the government’s resolve to clean and restore Boracay Island to its previous stature as one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches of the world,” Roque said.

“This is a good wakeup call to everyone that we must not sacrifice the future ecological sustainability on the altar of economic growth and development,” he added.

The Philippine National Police has sent more than 600 policemen to maintain peace and order during the six-month closure to tourism activities while the Armed Forces of the Philippines sent about 200 soldiers.

Meanwhile, former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has called on the Filipino-Chinese business community to help the island recover economically after it is closed to the public.

She said the Filipino-Chinese community should do its part in making sure the country keeps the momentum by inviting more Chinese tourists to the country despite the closure.

Noting that over one million Chinese tourists came to the country last year, she added that she does not want the country to suffer the same fate as Phuket, Thailand, which was hit by a tsunami in 2004.

“I mentioned about one million Chinese tourists suddenly coming when practically none in the previous administration and so many of them go to Boracay,” Arroyo said in addressing the conference of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) at the Century Park Hotel in Manila over the weekend.

 Back then, she added, honeymooners who were supposed to go to Phuket went to Boracay and other parts of the Philippines “and stayed in the Philippines since then.”

She stressed that the one million mark was reached only during Duterte’s administration, a sharp increase when compared to former president Benigno Aquino III’s “dismal number.”

 Arroyo also wanted the Filipino-Chinese community to be active in making Chinese tourists feel at home while in the country “because they are familiar and comfortable with many Chinese customs and traditions.” 

 “I would want those Chinese tourists who know only Boracay to be able to go to other parts of the Philippines rather than go to Bali or Phuket. You, the Filipino Chinese members of the federation, in your own areas, I hope you would be able to bring them to other areas that are unknown to China, so we don’t lose them to Phuket and to Bali,” she said.

 Arroyo also urged the FFCCCII to support her advocacy of sending young college students to China to enable them to get a better understanding of China and improve national ties.

 She sought the group’s help in sponsoring a college student from every region of the country to go on a weeklong trip to China for them to learn from the “Chinese economic miracle.”  – With Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Jennifer Rendon

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