DENR seeks special prosecutors to handle environmental cases

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - News - (Carmel Loise Matus)

CEBU CITY - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the appointment of special prosecutors in the region to specifically handle environmental cases.

Steve Vincent Larona, legal assistant of the DENR-7, said the request was already sent to the DOJ and they are waiting for its approval.

Larona bared this during the recent forum of the Association of Government Information Officers - Philippine Information Agency in Central Visayas (AGIO-PIA 7) that tackled commercial illegal fishing within the Tañon Strait.

He also cited the importance of having special prosecutors to handle the environmental cases that they are filing against illegal commercial fishers. He noted the presence of specially appointed prosecutors who would help the agency push for the prosecution of these violators.

In 2016, Larona reported they have filed five cases against commercial fishing vessels that were conducting illegal fishing within the Tañon Strait.

Larona emphasized that commercial fishing activities inside the Tañon Strait are prohibited since it is a protected seascape and a critical marine habitat and important migratory path for 14 of the 27 species of whales and dolphins in the Philippines.

In an effort to increase the monitoring and enforcement activities within the protected area, Protected Area Superintendent Am Prospero Lendio said they have partnered with the Cebu Anti-illegal Fishing Task Force to help them.

There is an ongoing training for individuals from 15 local government units in the provinces of Cebu, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental on “Bantay Dagat”.

Those who will complete the training will be distributed to the different site management units scattered in the respective provinces.

The DENR-7 warned those who plan to do commercial fishing activities within Tañon Strait not to push through with it. “We are already a multi-sectoral organization. We have the NBI, Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, Army, Navy, and the Maritime Police on board. Do not do [commercial] fishing activities inside the Tañon Strait,” Larona said.

Tañon Strait is a rich fishing ground for artisanal or municipal fishers who live along the coastal areas within the 42 cities and municipalities in the provinces of Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Negros Occidental. It houses at least 90 species of fish, 20 species of crustaceans, 26 species of mangroves, and 18,830 hectares of coral reef.

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