South Cotabato to create task force vs environment-related crimes

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 July) – The provincial government of South Cotabato is going down to the “roots” to address cases of environment-related crimes or violations in the area.

Mt. Matutum in South Cotabato is one of the country’s protected areas. MindaNews file photo

Engr. Siegfred Flaviano, head of the Provincial Environment Management Office, said they are currently drafting a proposed Executive Order (EO) for the creation of the Provincial Environmental Crime Task Force.

He said the special task force will exclusively run after violators of various environmental laws and regulations within the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

“Instead of just focusing on enforcement, we will be doing case buildup and filing cases. We will be addressing the problem by going to the roots and running after those really behind them,” Flaviano said in a briefing.

The official said the move was an offshoot of recent discussions between South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo and officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Region 12.

Under the proposed EO, he said the local government will partner with various government agencies and other stakeholders to address concerns on environment-related violations.

He said these cover violations on all environmental laws such as those concerning pollution, mining, biodiversity and management of protected areas.

Flaviano said the task force will involve representatives from the DENR, local government units, intelligence units of the police and military, National Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, local prosecution office and the Provincial Legal Office.

Through the intelligence and investigation units, he said it will determine personalities who were really behind the cases of environmental crimes and gather evidence for the filing of charges.

He specifically cited the financiers, protectors, operators and other personalities behind the illegal activities, among them the continuing illegal logging and the destructive “banlas” or sluice mining.

The task force will have an enforcement component, which will be tasked to conduct operations, including the application of search warrants, he said.

“We will help each other and coordinate our actions to properly address these problems,” he added. (MindaNews)