Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Zubiri seeks for the immediate passage of Magna Carta for Environment workers

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 3, 2011-Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, yesterday sought for the immediate approval of Magna Carta for Environment Workers where he expressed concern over the alarming rate of killings involving environmental workers following the death of an environment official in Samar due to timber poaching.

The Senator condemned the barbaric death of Pierre Gillo, 51, officer in charge of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) in Sta. Rita, Samar, who was shot to death by unidentified assailants riding on a motorcycle last February 25, 2011 outside his house in V&G Subdivision in Tacloban City where the authorities believed that Gillo was killed due to his campaign against illegal logging activity in Santa Rita, some 40 km away from Tacloban City.

Zubiri said that there is a need to intensify campaign against illegal logging operation in the country to protect our green army, our environmental officers on the ground, who are helpless against big time logging operators and criminals.

There were more than 120 government environmental workers who were killed in the line of duty since 1987 according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) statistics.

DENR Ramon Paje said that the department had lost about eight personnel from July 2010 to present, thus Zubiri expressed his commitment to push for the immediate passage of the Magna Carta for Environment Workers saying that there is a need to ensure their safety, benefits and recognition to our Green army, volunteers, cops, soldiers and lawyers who are tasked to protect, preserve and maintain the quality of  our environment and natural resources.

He said that the task to protect our natural resources is not a walk in the park where he appealed to his colleagues to pass Senate Bill 2550 or the Magna Carta for Environment and Natural Resources Personnel which aims to promote and to improve the health, physical safety, social and economic well-being of the environment and natural resources personnel, their living and working conditions, security and terms of employment.

The said bill seeks to develop their skills and capabilities in order that they will be more responsive and better equipped to deliver environmental management functions and it also offered benefits for them to remain in government service.

Protection and benefits shall be given to the personnel of DENR, its Bureaus, Regional Officers, and attached Agencies, environmental units in the other government agencies and the ecological waste management department of the local government units including forest rangers and park rangers, according to the said bill including the private individuals and groups who are engaged in the protection of the environment such as NGOs and environmental units of private corporations or enterprises.

Those who are involved in hazardous undertakings such as field inspectors, waste monitoring and sampling specialists and those whose duties expose them to radiation, volcanic eruption and other occupational risks will be granted hazard allowance equivalent to 25% of the monthly basic salary while the environmental workers will also get highest basic salary upon retirement, higher insurance premium and increase medical examination package.

He said that if the Magna Carta for Environmental Workers will be approved, it will hasten the investigation, form a task force for environmental killings alone and apprehend the perpetrators the soonest possible time. Recognition for our environmental workers who continue to put their lives at great risk should be granted. (Jason de Asis)

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