DENR told to buy choppers to monitor illegal activities

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito on Wednesday called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to consider buying helicopters to better fulfill its mandate in protecting, conserving and managing the country’s environment and natural resources.

Ejercito made the recommendation after finding out during the Senate hearing of the DENR’s proposed PHP24.171-billion budget for 2019 that the agency has practically no flying assets.

When asked by the lawmaker how the agency monitors illegal activities, DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo Jr. said the agency relies on new technologies, like drones, and the LAWIN Protection System.

LAWIN is a strategy that seeks to conserve the forest and biodiversity with the involvement of the community by using a mobile application to report real-time environmental abuses.

Adobo said the agency has one helicopter, but it is rarely used due to the prohibitive cost of fuel and maintenance.

“It is very costly to maintain a chopper. Whenever we need a chopper, we ask the Department of National Defense (DND) for support,” Adobo said.

“We have an agreement with DND and we just pay for the flying hours whenever we need a helicopter,” he added.

Ejercito, however, said having their own air assets at their disposal would enable the DENR to effectively monitor illegal activities, especially in forested and protected areas. (PNA)