Environment Secretary Gina Lopez hopes to put the image of the military and the police on a more positive light with their new role as "protectors of the environment."

Lopez said the country's security forces play a crucial role in the newly created anti-environmental crime task force led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which will go after environmental offenders and ensure strict implementation of environmental laws and regulations.

The DENR recently signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with other key government agencies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, for the creation of the task force called "A-TEAM Kalikasan."

Lopez said their new role in environmental protection will help erase the bad image of soldiers and policemen as bodyguards of influential politicians and businessmen and make them guardians of the nation's wealth and the environment.

"The [military and the police] were being used as bodyguards for big business interests. I want to shift that and work together with them, to work with the farmers, to work with the indigenous people, because my experience with the military has been only very good and we need to shape that," Lopez said.

Lopez said she views the military and the police as partners in development. "I think of we do that and we all work together with the civil society, I don't see why we can't make a difference."

Other parties to the MOA are the Department of National Defense, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Transportation, and the Philippine Coast Guard.

The task force aims to respond to the clamor for social justice, especially among the indigenous peoples who complain about land grabbing and the negative impacts of mining and illegal logging to the environment and their livelihoods.

Lopez expressed high optimism and expectation that the task force will succeed in its mission. "I am counting on three things from you -- will, heart and integrity," Lopez told the members of the task force.

"Yes, we will make things happen. In the immediate future we will see a much, much better Philippines because enforcing is really number one and let’s make it good," she added. ###