MANILA – Concerned government agencies are now working on a synchronized protocol on the release of water from dams, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said on Monday.
“For now, the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council), NIA (National Irrigation Administration), DOST (Department of Science and Technology) and PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) and other agencies are having consultations and coordination on how to control the release of water from dams before or during a typhoon. We are now working on a single protocol,” Año said in a radio interview.
This protocol would be implemented by the NDRRMC, Año said.
“So hopefully we can come up with a good protocol. This would be under the NDRRMC so that only one agency would be in charge of this matter and that before a typhoon, we can already release water from dams,” he added.
Meanwhile, Año has directed local government units (LGUs) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to implement a crackdown on illegal logging, illegal quarrying and expedite the planting of trees in coordination with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
He said all LGUs and PNP units across the country must prioritize the protection of the environment, especially for a disaster-prone and stricken nation such as the Philippines.
“We must act quickly and in a whole-of-society fashion to protect our remaining forests across the country otherwise we are creating and causing more disasters for our country. The flooding brought by Typhoon Ulysses is a harsh reminder that we are failing at doing our level best to protect the environment, especially our remaining forest cover,” Año said in a statement.
He said that widespread flooding in Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Marikina, Rizal, and other parts of the country should be a wake-up call for the people to protect the country’s remaining forest cover, preserve rich biodiversity, and allow forests to regenerate and grow again.
He added said that all LGUs and PNP units must reactivate their local Anti-Illegal Logging Task Forces in coordination with the Provincial and Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of the DENR. The Task Forces were created under Executive Order 23, s. 2011 composed of the DENR, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, PNP, and the LGUs.
He likewise reminded all LGUs that under DENR Memorandum Circular 2011 all municipal/city mayors, though their respective barangay captains, are to conduct upland monitoring “to ensure that no illegal logging, kaingin and other forms of forest destruction” take place within their jurisdictions with the directive to report to their Regional Task Forces (RTFs), “through the Provincial Governor and/or the DILG Regional Director,” incidents of forests destruction especially slash and burn farming (kaingin) and illegal logging activities.
“All LGUs must reactivate their local Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force and be decisive in implementing the anti-illegal logging campaign and implementation of environmental laws and programs within their localities,” he said.
He also directed the PNP to set up checkpoints and arrest illegal loggers who violate the Revised Forestry Code with a strict emphasis on Section 79 stipulating the “Unlawful Occupation or Destruction of Forest Lands and Grazing Lands.”
Under the said section, any person who “causes any damage to the timber stand and other products and forest growth found therein” shall be punished under the said Code while Section 89 of the same Code states that “Philippine National Police shall arrest even without warrant any person who has committed or is committing in his presence any of the offenses defined in this Chapter.”
He said that illegal loggers will be criminally charged for violating the Forestry Code of the Philippines (P.D. 705) and the Republic Act No. 9175 or the Chainsaw Act of 2002, among others.
“It is imperative that we must stop the wanton destruction of our remaining forest resources not only for our sake but also for future generations who will suffer the consequences of our inaction,” he said.
He also urged all LGUs to deploy more forest guards and the DENR to deploy more foresters to monitor our forests and engage local communities and Civil Society Organizations in reforestation programs particularly the National Greening Program,” he said. (PNA)