DENR seeks higher fines for environmental offenders

Illegal loggers, polluters and wildlife poachers and smugglers may soon be facing heavier penalties once the proposal to raise fines for environmental crimes becomes a state policy.

This, as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has started the process of finding ways to determine the monetary value of lost environmental goods and services as a result of an environmental crime.

In line with this, the agency is hosting a two-day consultation workshop called “Ecosystem Resource Valuation in Support to Environmental Law Enforcement” starting today until tomorrow in Quezon City.

Close to 100 environment and law enforcement authorities will gather at the event to craft a blueprint on how ecological damage assessment values can be used by the courts as a measure of liability in determining the fines and penalties to be slapped against environmental offenders.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu expressed optimism that the effort would “provide the much-needed policy reforms to bridge the gap between achieving environmental justice and enforcement of environmental laws.”

“It is imperative to impose higher fines for the commission of any violation against the country’s environmental laws if we are to really curb offenses like indiscriminate disposal of garbage, illegal logging, wildlife poaching and smuggling, to name a few,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu noted that the consultation workshop is a step foward to having a full accounting of environmental damage as it would provide a mechanism for the determination of accurate compensation cost for the damage resulting from an environmental offense.

“At present, damage from environmental crime cannot be fully accounted for as we have yet to develop a mechanism that would determine the full compensation cost for the damage made,” Cimatu pointed out.

He said whatever the outcome of the activity will surely be a huge contribution to the DENR’s conduct of natural resources damage assessment, especially in the cost-benefit analysis of health, safety and environmental issues.

Among the considerations that will play a major part in framing the mechanism are the cost at which the resource would actually sell in the market place at the time when the offense was commited and the cost of restoring, rehabilitating or replacing the affected resource.

Under the Revised Penal Code, an offender in a criminal case can likewise be held liable for civil liabilities which include restitution, reparation of damages caused and indemnification for consequential damages.

Aside from heads of DENR field law enforcement units, operatives from other law enforcement organizations will take part in the workshop, such as the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Customs, the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine National Police-Maritime Group. 

Other participants include representatives from the Leagues of Provinces, Cities, and Municipalities.

Experts from the United States Department of the Interior and the United States Agency for International Development will facilitate the workshop.

Among the topics to be discussed are “Determining the State of Philippine Policies on Ecosystem Resource Valuation,”  “Biological and Economic Modules on Determining Damage in Relation to Environmental Crimes with Case Studies,”  and “Determining Appropriate Ecosystems Resource Valuation Policies for the Philippines.” ###