The Philippines' very first case filing at the Department of Justice (DOJ) for a violation of environmental laws in a protected area pursuant to the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, RA-7586, was made recently. This involved alleged commercial fishing done by 13 respondents apprehended in the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, one of the country’s largest marine protected areas.
The DOJ has created a National Task Force of Special Prosecutors pursuant to RA 586, to implement its mandate of efficient, effective and equitable administration of justice with a particular focus on protected areas.
This was borne out of the collaborative efforts of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and its Biodiversity Management Bureau, plus the Department of Justice to give life to the mandate of RA 7586 of providing speedy and efficient prosecution of cases specifically for protected areas. The law recognizes that effective administration and sustainable management of protected areas is “Possible only through cooperation among national government, local government and concerned private organizations; that the use and enjoyment of these protected areas must be consistent with the principles of biological diversity and sustainable development.”
“This is a landmark moment which should help deter commission of prohibited acts especially in ecologically critical areas such as our protected areas,” says Oceana Philippines Vice-president Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos. “Illegal and destructive fishing dramatically destroys the vibrance and productivity of our oceans – causing our country to lose about PHP44 Billion in lost fishing revenues yearly.”
President Duterte promised to curb illegal fishing through stricter enforcement of marine and fisheries-related laws.
Adds Ramos, “With stricter law enforcement, more of the country’s marine resources can be protected to provide food and livelihood for our fellow Filipinos.”