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Senators call for stricter DENR

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SENATORS have urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to impose stricter measures against entities putting up businesses within protected areas, citing risks to the environment.

“While the Philippine government has established a robust framework of policies, law, and regulations for the protection of our protected areas, there appears to be a deficiency in their implementation,” Senator Cynthia A. Villar told a hearing looking into resorts set up within the Chocolate Hills in Bohol and Mount Apo Natural Park in central Mindanao.

The country has 248 protected areas under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992.

A video of the Captain’s Peak Resort, which is in the middle of the hills, went viral on social media last week, drawing flak from environmental groups and advocates.

Senator Rafael T. Tulfo earlier told the plenary that mountaineering groups had reported several resorts operating within the Mount Apo National Reserve, citing the need to probe why these were being allowed. 

At the hearing, he questioned the DENR’s freedom of information manual that bars the agency from disclosing the list of applicants for environmental compliance certificates and mining.

“The DENR is the agency that is mandated to protect and promote our environment but due to the recent events, this agency is no longer doing its job and I considered it as bantay salakay (a betrayal),” Mr. Tulfo said.

The National Water Resources Board on March 20 ordered the Bohol resort to stop using deep wells without a permit.

The DENR said last month it had ordered the closure of the Captain’s Peak resort in September for operating without an environmental compliance certificate.

“Taking action now is essential, and this may well start with conducting a thorough survey, inventory, and recording of every structure in all our protected areas… to identify and rectify any inconsistencies with their intended protection,” Ms. Villar said.

“We have to be strict now because if they will come, more (resorts) will be built at after that there won’t be a use for legislated protected areas,” she said in mixed English and Filipino at a separate news briefing. — John Victor D. Ordoñez