By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The government has formed a new task force that would ensure strict implementation of environmental laws and regulations, and go after environmental offenders in Metro Manila.
To be led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’, Secretary Roy Cimatu said the Task Force DENR Metro Manila is part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the agency’s law enforcement.
He described the department’s enforcement of law as the “weakest link” in the fulfillment of the DENR’s mandate to preserve and protect the environment and natural resources of the country.
“It is ironic that enforcement is still the weakest link to the DENR’s organizational effectiveness despite the sufficiency of existing laws that have been in operation for over a decade now,” Cimatu said.
The task force is divided into four teams assigned to every three to seven cities in Metro Manila. Each team is composed of 12 members coming from different bureaus under the DENR, including the Environmental Management Bureau, Forest Management Bureau, and Biodiversity Management Bureau.
Cimatu branded the members of each task force team as “The Dirty Dozen,” in reference to the 1967 American war film about 12 handpicked soldiers overcoming overwhelming obstacles to achieve a daunting task through teammanship and shared vision.
The task force is divided into four quadrants that would cover Quezon City, Marikina, Pasig, San Juan, Caloocan-North, Valenzuela and Mandaluyong; Makati, Pateros and Taguig; Pasay, Parañaque, Muntinlupa and Las Piñas; and Navotas, Malabon, Manila and Caloocan-South.
Cimatu envisioned the task force as a pilot model that would later be replicated in other priority areas in the country that need augmentation of their enforcement capabilities.
“Owing to being the country’s highest population density and concentration of economic activities, Metro Manila has the highest incidence of violations of environmental laws and that makes it an ideal pilot area for the effort,” Cimatu pointed out.
With the new task force in place, Cimatu urged Metro Manila residents to use all available means of communication, including social media to report possible violations of environmental laws and regulations.
He expected the task force to receive reports involving garbage, air pollution, water pollution and even illegal logging since Metro Manila is a traditional transshipment point of undocumented wood products coming from provinces