DENR-DPWH DIALOGUE. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) hold a dialogue for infrastructure projects within protected areas, timberland and forestlands.
In a meeting sponsored by the DENR on Aug. 10, DENR Regional Executive Director Gwendolyn C. Bambalan laid down policies prescribing the process and the requirements in introducing development activities such as road construction within a protected area. These were discussed after Engr. Editha Babaran of the Isabela 3rd District Engineering Office presented the proposed construction of the Naguilian Junction San Mariano-Palanan Road. The proposed project is a national primary road in Isabela province that leads to the coastal town of Palanan. It will traverse the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP).
The regional environment chief explained that while the DENR understands the objective of the project which provides access road to communities in the coastal town, she said the agencies should balance development projects and protection of the natural resources. She also elaborated that any development project within the NSMNP such as road construction should pass through the Protected Area Management Board as the governing and policy making body of the protected area.
“We should have options to ensure that there is less damage to the environment. Let us strictly evaluate so that the project will not fall within the strict protection zones where no activity must be undertaken except for scientific study,” Director Bambalan said as she explained that Republic Act (RA) 917 or the Philippine Highway Act of 1953, and Executive Order 113 s. 1955 should be reconciled with RA 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018, and RA 7586 (National Integrated Protected Areas System Act).
During the meeting, the DENR announced the conduct of an orientation in September among the District Engineering Offices on governance mechanism for protected areas including approaches, requirements and process when constructing roads and other infrastructure projects within timberland and forestland.
Engr. Babaran thanked the regional environment chief for the dialogue that addressed concerns of both agencies and for initiating the conduct of an orientation. She said it is their first time to have development project in a protected area hence, the orientation is timely and necessary.
The dialogue was also attended by DPWH personnel, DENR Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services Marcos G. Dacanay, Isabela PENR Officer Marlon C. Agnar, Palanan CENR Officer Federico P. Cauilan Jr., Naguilian CENR Officer Elmer C. Cuanan, division chiefs in the Regional Office and representative of the Environmental Management Bureau.#