The Department of Environment and Natural Resources provincial office in Negros Oriental will spearhead the signing this month of a Memorandum of Agreement creating a provincial anti-illegal logging task force, and the deputation of personnel to enforce environmental laws and regulations.

The activity is part of a month-long celebration of Environment Month in June, on the theme, “Forests: Nature at Your Service”, provincial DENR officials said at a press conference, yesterday.

Mario Aragon, chief of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office II based in Dumaguete City said, a meeting was held last week with law enforcement agencies that are members of the Provincial Law Enforcement Coordinating Council (PLECC), a body chaired by the Philippine National Police provincial director, Sr. Supt. Rey Lyndon Lawas, on the proposed deputation and possible arming of forest protection personnel.

Aragon had raised his concerns to the PLECC about the limitations of DENR personnel in combating illegal logging, because many violators carrying firearms while transporting illegally cut trees or lumber, while DENR personnel are unarmed.

Under Executive Order No. 23 on the moratorium on cutting of trees in residual and natural forests and the creation of an anti-illegal logging task force, Magallones said body at the provincial level, will bolster forest protection efforts.

He said that during the creation of the regional anti-illegal logging task force, the regional director of the PNP Region 7 office had suggested that similar law enforcement bodies be created in the provinces of Negros Oriental, Bohol and Siquijor.

Cebu province will integrate its personnel with the regional anti-illegal task force, said Magallones.

At the provincial level, the PENRO will chair the anti-illegal logging task force, whose members would include the governor, the Philippine National Police, Philippine Army, Coast Guard, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Ports Authority and other law enforcement groups.

Magallones also encouraged the participation of the local government units, especially barangay officials, as they are the ones who are familiar with the activities in their respective communities.

A training on environmental laws, rules and regulations, such as Presidential Decree 705 or the Revised Forestry Administrative Code of the Philippines, for the would-be deputized environment and natural resources officers, said Magallones.*JFP