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DENR officials in Neg. Occ. reshuffled

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently reshuffled its officials in Negros Occidental.

It is interesting to note that three of the five senior DENR officers in the province were formerly assigned in Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, that is one of the 13 declared protected areas in the Philippines by Conngress. The recent reshuffling was part of the rationalization scheme that is being undertaken by the DENR at the national scale.

Forester Andre Untal, formerly the Community Environment and Natural Resources officer of Kabankalan City, is the current Provincial Environment and Natural Resources officer in Negros Occidental. He assumed the office from forester Valentine Talabero, who was assigned in Capiz province. Engr. Norman Lebelo took over CENRO Kabankalan from Untal. Forester Edgardo Rostata will assume the CENRO in Cadiz City from Joan Gerangaya, who will take over the post previously occupied by the former in CENRO Bacolod City. Biologist Vilma Limates is retained as the CENRO in Sipalay City.

These five officials in Negros Occidental are familiar with me, since they were my contemporaries while I was working with PENRO, and later on in Mount Kanla-on. They all rose from the ranks and have shown dedication and commitment to their assignments.

In the history of the DENR in Negros Occidental, Untal is the second PENRO who is a native of the province. The first one was the late forester, Larry Cayayan, who, I would say, was one of my mentors in the field of environment and natural resources management.

Qualification-wise, these officers pursued advanced studies. Limates has a doctorate degree in environmental science, and Rostata holds master's courses in public administration and coastal resource management. Both obtained their advance courses at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños and Visayas, respectively. The three others obtained their master's degrees in various universities, and all of them have attended numerous seminars, trainings and workshops on various facets of the environment and natural resources management.

As far as I know, Negros Occidental is the first province in the Philippines that has incumbent senior DENR officials comprising mostly of personnel, who are well trained in protected area management.

Untal once held the position of Senior Ecosystems Management specialist and was designated deputy protected area superintendent in MKNP, at the time I was the PASu of Mount Kanla-on. Before Untal, my deputy was Rostata, who was also headed the Protection and Law Enforcement Team of MKNP. It was during our time when the most number of cases was filed in courts, leading to the convictions of several persons. Judge Philadelfa Agraviador, then the special prosecutor on environmental cases, provided us technical assistance in various aspects of prosecution.

Limates was also part of our pioneering team in protected area management at MKNP. She was then our biologist and was responsible in the preparation of the MKNP's protected area suitability assessment and initial protected area plan.

Although Gerangaya was not officially part of the MKNP team, he also provided assistance in some surveying activities at MKNP because he was assigned with the Land Management Services of PENRO before. Very recently, however, Gerangaya was the designated PASu of the Northern Negros Natural Park.

It is very important for Negros Occidental to have DENR officials with ample background and experiences in protected area management.

For one, there are three declared protected areas in Negros Occidental – Sagay Marine Reserve in the northern part of the province, NNNP and MKNP. Second, there are other sites in the province that have been declared as Key Biodiversity Areas of the country, such as the remaining forest patches in southern Negros Occidental, that we call south-western Negros KBA. *

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