ENVIRONMENT advocates issued a symbolic “notice of closure” this week on the regional environment agency, saying it violated its mandate of protecting natural resources and the people’s right to a healthy ecology.

The group led by lawyer Benjamin Cabrido Jr. posted closure signs and handed over a statement seeking the creation of a National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA).

Cabrido said the group is supporting Sen. Miguel Zubiri’s Senate Bill 59, proposing the creation of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The bill aims to amend former president Corazon Aquino’s Executive Order 192, which created the DENR.

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Five groups of environmentalists plan to submit to President Benigno Aquino III a position paper detailing why the DENR should be replaced by the NEPA.

The groups are the Philippine Earth Justice Center, Visayas Climate Action Now Network, Fisherfolk Development Center Inc. (FIDEC), Pamana Sugbo and Save Tañon Strait Citizens Movement (STSCM).

“This institution tasked at protecting our resources by all means, has been in cahoots with various private and publicly listed corporations in jeopardizing the integrity of our environment by all means,” said their joint statement sent to Sun.Star Cebu.

“It has driven poor communities such as the fisherfolk and farmers further into poverty, aside from worsening regional food insecurity and global climate change,” the group said.

The other signatories of the joint statement are Cabrido, Owen Migraso of FIDEC, Victor Lapaz of Pamana Sugbo and Janno Bunda of STSCM.

The Zubiri proposal focuses on controlling pollution through the identification of pollutants, tracing these through the ecological chain and observing and recording changes in form as they occur, among others.

As proposed, the EPA will be headed by a chairperson appointed by the President and composed of DENR regional executive directors, who will take charge of the monitoring and enforcement of environmental laws in their area.

The group in yesterday’s protest included members of the Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Inc. (Fidec), Philippine Earth Justice Center, Visayas Climate Action Now Network and Save Tañon Strait Citizens Movement.

In a statement, the group accused DENR of allowing the unprecedented destruction of marine resources through offshore oil and gas mining and of facilitating sickness, deaths and other calamities by violating the Environmental Impact Assessment law.

The environment advocates also said reclamation projects have displaced communities and re-shaped landscapes.

DENR 7 information officer Eddie Llamedo said the proposal to abolish DENR and replace it with two separate agencies for conservation and development is an opportunity to set off discussions on the merits of the plan.

“We support the proposal, for balance in resource utilization and protection,” he said. (With EOB)