The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office here has partnered with the Philippine Army’s (PA) 703rd Infantry Brigade (703rd IBde) to save the remaining forests in Central Luzon.
Paquito Moreno, executive director of the DENR regional office, on Thursday said forest and wildlife protection is one of the challenging tasks of the DENR and has been its battle cry for many decades now.
“Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu’s marching order to us is to prevent the cutting of trees in our forests, protected areas and watersheds,” Moreno said in an official social media post. Cimatu was a former military general.
He said protecting the region’s more than 900,000 hectares of forestland is a big challenge to the DENR due to its limited human resources, with only about 150 forest rangers patrolling and monitoring the area.
Thus, he said the partnership with the Army is a welcome development, giving a big boost to the efforts to end forest destruction in the region.
“Collaboration with other agencies and stakeholders of the environment is vital in our campaign to end illegal logging, and the Philippine Army has been our steady partner in our anti-illegal logging campaign,” Moreno said.
Under the partnership agreement, the 703rd IBde will provide intelligence support, assist in the monitoring of illegal forest activities and in the enforcement of forestry and other environmental laws.
The DENR-Region 3, on the other hand, shall take the lead in the conduct of forest protection activities, conduct skill enhancement training on forest and environmental laws and deputize all units of the 703rd IBde.
Brig. Gen. Andrew Costelo, 703rd IBde commander, said with or without the memorandum of partnership, the PA is committed and required to undertake environmental protection activities as their contribution to mother earth.
“We assure the DENR that the 703rd IBde, 7ID (7th Infantry Division) of the PA is one with you against illegal logging and in the implementation of any environmental activities,” he said.
Earlier, the DENR likewise partnered with the Philippine National Police to protect the established forest plantations in Tarlac.
The agreement included 10 local PNP units and the 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company in the protection of forest plantations established under the National Greening Program (NGP).
Since 2011, DENR-Central Luzon has established more than 122,000 hectares of forest plantations within degraded watersheds and forestlands in the region.